Finding Your Swagger

Published: June 3, 2024
If you look good, you feel good. And, if you feel good, you can walk into any space and exude confidence, which is half the battle when it comes to networking and working the trade show floor. Courtesy / Alesia Hendley

The first half of the year always brings a mixed bag of industry events, taking place all across the country. Whether distributors, integrators or industry associations host these events, there’s always a lot to look forward to within the first two quarters of the year. I call it event season! 

Event season is almost like wedding season, and I do my best to prepare for the nonstop excitement. First and foremost, my preparation involves making sure my #avfashion is on point. 

If You Look Good, You Feel Good 

Why do I prioritize that? Because, if you look good, you feel good. And, if you feel good, you can walk into any space and exude confidence, which is half the battle of networking and working these rooms. Second, after I have my suits planned out, I engage with the community online. If I can find one person whom I know who will also be in attendance, it calms the anxiety a bit. Third, after considering the event, I make sure to get my talking points together, along with a list of new people I’d like to connect with. Those three steps have guided me, empowering me to be able to work just about any room. 

With one of the biggest industry events, InfoComm, taking place this month, it seems fitting to focus on the art of networking in this column. 

Although our industry is driven by technology, it’s the people who keep us going. That’s true even when you’re designing a space — for example, a conference room or a classroom. Before the design begins, you have to think about the people. 

  • How are the people going to use the room? 
  • What do those people want to be able to accomplish in that space by using that technology? 
  • What type of experience will each person have in the room? 

Technology is great, and, in our business, you need to know it. But, just as in any other industry, when it comes to business and growing your career, it’s sometimes about whom you know. I believe in striking a balance between what you know and whom you know; the combination of networking and my technical skills has helped me grow throughout my career journey. 

So, let’s break this down into repeatable steps. What has helped me break out of my shell and continue to grow my network? 

Find Your Swagger 

Half the battle is building up your confidence. Finding your swagger changes how you look and feel about yourself. And, when you find it, everyone else can feel it, too. I didn’t come into this business rocking suits. It was a swagger that I grew into. I’m not saying you have to wear a suit, but you do have to strike a balance between business casual and finding your own unique style. 

My look is something I take pride in. So, when I walk into a room that’s mostly full of people I don’t know, I at least feel comfortable in my own skin. I look at it as an investment in myself — and if you invest in yourself, things change. If you feel confident in yourself, things change. And they usually change for the better. Before your next event, think about your look. Put a little extra thought into it and let me know how you felt before and after the event. Reaching out is simple: Just at me on X @thesmoothfactor with the hashtag #avfashion. Let’s talk about it! 

Engage the Community 

Many of us #avtweeps spend a good amount of time online. Before you attend an event, go to the event’s website and find its social handles. Usually, once you find the social handles, you’ll find the official event hashtag. Examples of these include #InfoComm24, #CIX24 or #E4Experience. These hashtags create a searchable string of people who are talking about the event and, in many cases, attending. So, join the conversation online before you go! That way, you can connect with #avtweeps who are part of the community before you physically get there. It’s a little easier to start a conversation with someone you’ve already connected with online, right? 

Use the official hashtag to your advantage. Will a hiring manager be at one of these events? Will an industry influencer you’ve been wanting to connect with be in attendance? If so, make a note of it! If you don’t connect beforehand, just magically place yourself at the panel discussion they’re speaking on. Or you could seek them out at the opening reception. 

It’s OK to be strategic when it comes to networking. Outside of feeling confident, it’s the second most powerful tool in my networking toolkit. I’m never anywhere by accident.  

Confidence Comes from Preparation 

It’s one thing to look good on the outside. Another tool you must have, however, is preparation with talking points. Events usually have an overarching theme. Pick your three pillars of expertise within that overarching theme and use it to either start conversations or add to existing conversations. Having a pitch or a handful of questions ready, all of which flow within the theme of the event, is another strategic move. Being prepared drives confidence, too. You’re not overthinking, “What am I going to say when I meet that hiring manager?” You’re not going into a panic about what you’re going to say to anyone. You already have a toolkit full of preparation, all ready to go. 

Now, I’m going to drop one more power move that I didn’t mention earlier but that makes all this effort come together. You know I’m talking about the follow up! Once you’ve effectively worked the room and you leave to go home, you might feel success…feel victory. But all that work would be for nothing if you didn’t ever follow up. So, get business cards or connect on LinkedIn; then, make sure to follow up. It’s the extra mile that many don’t take. 

What’s the next industry event you’re headed to, #avtweeps? Let me know by reaching out on LinkedIn or X. Maybe I’ll meet you there and we can work the room together! 

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