To say that your time at a conference or industry trade show is at a premium is a gross understatement, to say the least. Your days are packed with pitching your products and ideas, to network, to check in on the competition, and to foster business development opportunities. What you're not there to do is collect resumes and conduct an endless stream of interviews.
But just because you don't have the bandwidth to devote to interviewing doesn't mean that you shouldn't take advantage of being under the same roof as the very best professionals in your field. In fact, a conference is prime real estate for connecting with and nurturing relationships with some of the top talent out there. After all, the professionals who get sent to represent their companies at conferences are the brightest that business has to offer, and they also happen to be the same folk you're looking to recruit.
Here are 4 ways you can make the most of your time at a show to meet and connect with top talent.
1. The "How Do You Do"
Whether you spend most of your time at your booth or roving the floor, you're going to be meeting lots of people. The mood is more convivial, people tend to have their guard lowered even the dress is more casual. So, you'll have plenty of opportunities to chat and feel people out. And this is why you want to have a pitch prepared, a friendly "script" if you will when meeting people who intrigue you.
This isn't a hard sell as much as an overture, and because time is short you don't want to have to make it up on the spot. Just as you have an elevator pitch for your company, have a succinct, yet enticing, a preview of what you do and what you're looking for in employees.
Do keep in mind, not everyone you'll meet and is excited by is looking for a new opportunity, but savvy professionals know that their next great job could come out of the blue. Both they and you have to prepare to make the most of the moment. If you're only focused on clients and prospects you might just miss connecting with your next top performer.
After you're back in the office the following week be certain to follow up and make personal contact (above and beyond connecting on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook). Even if you're not ready to pursue them any further at the moment, take advantage of that face-t0-face interaction to lay the groundwork.
2. Go Where The Talent Goes
Surely you've got your own busy schedule to keep up with: panels to attend, break out sessions to participate in, and keynote speeches to catch.
But in addition to going to track sessions that speak to your needs or pain points, take some time to attend tracks that the talent you are looking for might attend. In addition to seeing how people conduct themselves in a forum, you also may learn something new about the concerns of people in this position are having, and you'll certainly gain insight into what they're looking at to do their jobs well.
Again, this is not actively recruiting as much as name gathering and relationship building -- a golden opportunity to meet and cultivate future relationships. After all, you're far more likely to form a clearer impression of someone you've met and had contact with than just by reading a resume. You'll also have a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses long before you sit down for your first interview with them.
Conferences are a prime real estate to practice the central tenet of: always be recruiting.
3. The Coffee/Lunch/Dinner Date
While carving out time off the floor and away from clients and prospects to hold an interview is not a good use of your time, meals offer the perfect opportunity to meet with a candidate that you're already engaged with.
Let's say you've already had the phone interviews, a video call and now you're looking to have a face-to-face. Assuming the candidate is also attending the show or is willing to fly in to meet you, meal breaks are a great time to meet. As they say, everyone's got to eat, right?
You stand to gain an unexpected bonus if your candidate is also working at the show as you very well might have the opportunity to see them in action. Not that you'd be spying on them or risking compromising their present position, but you can certainly get a real-life glimpse into how they comport themselves and if they are at ease outside of the cubicle.
4. The Final Round
Although it's not a regular occurrence, we certainly have had our clients meet candidates at shows that they've already made an offer to, or are in negotiations with. Not only is it a perfect setting for hammering out final details over a meal in a convivial atmosphere, but it's also an opportunity for other members of your team who might not be part of the vetting process to meet the soon-to-be new hire.
And assuming you are close enough to a closed deal, if it suits you, you'll also have the opportunity to begin introducing them to vendors, customers, and other industry contacts. It might just provide the perfect early training ground for you and your new hire.
What do you think? Do you have any room in your day or your head for thinking about recruiting or interviews while you're at a show? We want to hear from you, share your thoughts in the comments.