I feel you: You really want to go to an Inman Connect — but you don’t know anyone, you don’t know the city; you don’t know what to expect, and you don’t exactly thrive in crowds.
Me either. But if you follow the system below, you’ll easily manage it and have a great time in the process.
Organize your plan (yes, right now)
Organize your plan. Right now, grab your phone and create a Google Doc, Notebook, Trello list or new area within whatever app you use for projects and label it “Inman.”
Next, using “S” and “N” as identifiers for New York or San Francisco conferences — and so they will sort correctly — create the following subfolders or sections:
(The “People” and “Vendors” labels apply equally to each event.)
Find the Ambassadors
You might find (as I did) that some Ambassadors are more responsive than others, so ask your question to a couple of Ambassadors.
Keep in mind that they have a lot to do, so don’t expect them to be your BFF; do expect them to be friendly, answer your questions and give you direction.
Gather your resources
Scroll to January of the previous year for NYC, and August for San Francisco.
Read through their posts and photos. The people that regularly attend know these cities. Look for things they posted about and note them in your file.
Note restaurants they posted about under your “Restaurants” section.
What did they do while in the city? Note that under “Sights.”
Note hotels in which other attendees stayed — just in case you manage to procrastinate long enough that there are no more rooms at the conference venue. (But why wait? Book the conference hotel; you can usually cancel without penalty if you can’t go.)
Align your people
Making people connections are the name of the game at Inman Connect and often the hardest thing for newbies — and introverts — to do.
Here’s what I do. I follow the Ambassadors and read the comments of those who post on their pages.
If I read someone who has thoughtful posts that resonate with me, I put their names in my “People” file. I also note whatever it is about them that drew me.
Whether it is their knowledge about a customer relationship manager (CRM), their marketing expertise — or maybe they are just good, fun people who I want to know — I note it beside their names. These are the people that I try to talk with or meet.
Set your expectations
Remember that many people have been going to Inman for a long time. They have made strong connections with friends that they only get to see at Inman Connects. Some tend to group at every opportunity, and they might not be available to you.
This is fine! Find your own tribe; there are hundreds of people there who are looking for you and what you have to offer. Besides, includers have more fun.
Plan meetings ahead
This is where it gets a little tricky. If you don’t plan ahead, it is very easy to end up alone in a sea of thousands of people and not get as much out of the conference. You’re going to a lot of effort to get there, so plan to wring out every drop.
About two months before the conference, go to your “People” file that you’ve been populating all year and see who is going to Inman.
Send messages through Facebook or direct message on Twitter and let them know you’d love to meet if they have any open time.
Put yourself out there. Invite your noted people to meet for coffee, organize a discussion group, meet for a drink, meet at one of the parties or events, invite some people to lunch or organize a dinner yourself, complete with reservations.
In my opinion, this is where the smart seeds are pollinated — in small meetings with smart people, sharing ideas.
Use the app
Download the Inman Connect app as soon as it is ready.
It is awesome! It has the agenda, channels and lots of opportunity for connections.
It’s where walkers meet in the morning, coffee meet-ups, the foodie channel is a great resource for dinner plans and great restaurant recommendations — loads of great stuff.
Personalize your agenda
If you don’t, you’re going to miss some of the best stuff.
Just check the boxes of the sessions you want to attend, and the app creates a schedule for you. It’s brilliant.
Attend the sessions
Inman is great about keeping it rolling, with most sessions being 15-20 minutes. There are so many good takeaways I sometimes wish their sessions were longer!
Mophie, Anchor whatever — plan to have your phone fully charged at all times, you’ll be taking a lot of photos of slides.
You don’t want to spend so much time trying to write notes that you’re not fully present, and sometimes speakers have to talk pretty fast just to get everything in.
If there is a session that does not apply to you, go to your app, get on the channels and ask if there’s anyone available to meet in the lounge and chat over a beverage.
Relax and process with them about the last speakers.
See the sights.
They’re beautiful cities — don’t miss them!
The secret sauce
Put yourself out there. Inman Connect is about connecting.
Personally, I’m waiting for somebody at Inman to create a “Tinman” app, a Tinder for Inman.
I would love to be able to send someone a coffee, chat or meal invitation with the date, time, place to meet and note; then they could just swipe right if they will join me or swipe left if they cannot. That would eliminate that whole awkward invitation-rejection thing.
Inman is a big conference offering even bigger opportunities — if you plan it right.
Start collecting your resources now while it’s fresh. Scope people out online. Plan a few meet-ups in advance. Use the app. Go to the sessions. Ask vendors for a demo. Meet with people.
Swipe right? Not yet — that could be trouble.
Gwen Daubenmeyer is CEO, Team Leader and Lead Listing Agent at The Integrity Real Estate Team | The Re/Max Collection.