The Art of Networking
What drives innovation in addition to great science? The answer is collaboration – which can be a direct result of effective networking.
My philosophy in life and business is not just WHAT you know but WHO you know. With a slew of academy, CME and industry meetings, there are a lot of opportunities to network with people. But how do you effectively and efficiently meet with the “right” people? Social media platforms have made it a lot easier to identify, connect and expand your network. But there is still no substitute for face-to-face meetings. Whether it’s the dialogue, body language or chemistry, you often learn more about someone and their level of enthusiasm from live interactions.
We developed the Ophthalmology Innovation Summit with a clear intention of making it easy to bump into and connect with the right people by specifically targeting Entrepreneurs, KOLs, Industry Executives, and Investors who have the need and desire to collaborate on innovative ideas, products and technologies. For this reason, I often point out that OIS is not for everyone.
After my 20+ years of producing and organizing professional conferences, here are my tips for getting the best ROI on your networking opportunities – be it at OIS or another conference.
1 | PLAN AHEAD: It’s nice when you can randomly bump into someone who is synergistic with your business objectives, but can you afford to leave this to chance? In advance of the conference, I suggest everyone set aside an hour to identify the individuals or companies to target. Most meeting organizers publish the list of attendees in advance or willing to share the list upon request. We promote the OIS attendee lists because we have learned that it encourages other like-minded professionals to join the conference. Once you identify your top prospects, it is helpful to conduct additional research on the individual – find mutual contacts, business interests and secure a live meeting. LinkedIn is designed for this exact purpose, and continues to be my favorite resource.
2 | ASK FOR INTRODUCTIONS: Meetings are more effective when you are able to secure introductions from a mutual colleague or business contact. Most people are willing to facilitate these introductions if you provide a reason that warrants a meeting. These introductions tend to lead to more successful connections because it’s viewed as an endorsement from a trusted resource for both parties. As a bonus, this tactic takes some of the guesswork out of the credibility factor. Don’t forget that time is one of the most valuable assets and I often encourage people to be strategic about how they use it, and whom they connect with at these conferences. On that note, if you find yourself in a meeting that is not the best use of your time, don’t hesitate to gracefully make an exit and move on.
3 | Whenever Possible – GET ON STAGE: If you have a story or message worth sharing, you may find it possible to make it to the stage and reach a large audience. At OIS, we have found that if an audience member is aligned with your objectives, you will most certainly be approached coming off the stage or shortly thereafter. It’s equally important to remember that while you might not be presenting on the OIS stage, you are always presenting your story on a smaller scale to every individual you meet. I strongly recommend individuals fine-tune their story or pitch before attending a networking meeting to deliver the right message in a concise manner.
We celebrated our 10-year anniversary in 2018, and the growth of OIS has surpassed our wildest expectations. I attribute the success to the people on stage and in the audience. If you have an interest in meeting the brightest minds in ophthalmology innovation, and want to try out these basic strategies, I encourage you to attend one of our upcoming OIS meetings the next of which is OIS@ASCRS on May 2nd at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.
Good luck with the art of networking…
Craig Simak is a Co-founder of the Ophthalmology Innovation Summits and the CEO of event and media production company Healthegy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.