WBENC Conference 2018: 5 Tips for Making the Most of WBENC

WBENC 2018!  This is exciting!  Hundreds of leading global organizations and thousands of innovative, brilliant WBEs coming together in Detroit…what could be better?

With so many activities, sessions, opportunities and meetings, it can be easy to get overwhelmed – especially if this is your first national conference.  And then there’s the BIG DAY, the June 20th Business Fair (or, as supplier diversity folks call it “the never ending day of smiling and business cards”).

Never fear!  

We went through the wringer during our first conference so you don’t have to!  And as a W/MBE ourselves and a supplier who works directly with Supplier Diversity functions, we have insight from both sides of the fence that can help make your WBENC 2018 a fantastic success.  Or, at least, not a full-fledged disaster.

See below for The Nova Collective’s Official Tips and Tricks for Making WBENC2018 a Total Non-Disaster:  

1. Have.  A. Plan.  (and then be flexible with your plan)

There are truly too many organizations to connect with – even if you brought an army of biz dev folks with you, you’ll never hit them all.  Spend some prep time with the Exhibitor List  and make note of organizations that align with your value proposition.  It always helps to have a clean, quick pitch about how what you do helps businesses like theirs…and any results or case studies that are relevant.  This is made a lot simpler if you are focusing on 1 or 2 industries and telling a clear and concise story.

But don’t be afraid to pivot!  Your plan should be a guideline- NOT an absolute.  And your pitch should be an outline – NOT a script.  Leave space to adapt and go with the flow just a bit and you’ll be surprised at what opportunities arise.  

2. The people you are talking with are human people…and they are “the right people” to talk to.

Oooooohhhh boy we cringe when we hear some of the conversation starters at the Business Fair booths.

“I sent materials last year and no one followed up with me and I know Daryl in Marketing and who is the right person to talk to?”

Hey?  Hello?  The person standing in front of you whose sole job it is to connect you with qualified opportunities?  THAT is the “right person” to talk to.  Also, these are human people doing their job.  You can at least say hello. Ask them how their day is going.  Show some courtesy. We have a client who works on the Supplier Diversity side of the booth and she is afraid to wear her company logo at the conference because, as she puts it, “People are relentless and rude”.  Let’s not be relentless and rude! We can do better than this!

A human connection is the key to starting a relationship…and that is what you are trying to build – an authentic, mutually beneficial relationship.  

3. You are a rockstar!  YOU have what THEY need!

At the same time that you are checking yourself on your sales tactics and small talk, don’t forget that you are a big, awesome deal!  Research has shown time and again that working with small and diverse businesses is a competitive advantage that provides increased innovation and ROI for organizations.  All of these fancy corporate folks are at this conference because of YOU and YOUR business. Stand in your power – this is a two way street and no one knows your business or the real value you bring like you do.  

4. Go to the workshops and ask questions.  

Look, you paid for the workshops.  GO TO THEM. Even if a particular session feels less relevant to your or your business there is value to be had.  You might sit next to someone interesting in a parallel business, or one of the panelists might be someone you’ve been trying to connect with…there are so many connection points when you get out there and participate.  Approaching this entire week with an attitude of curiosity can lead to unexpected opportunities and new ideas.

5. Attend the events.  Say yes to everything.  

Along the same lines – go to the receptions!  (Seriously, you paid for them). Attend all of the things your tired feet can handle (wear comfortable shoes. That should have been at the top of this list).  Talk with other WBEs, talk with the corporate folks, talk with the event staff…everyone is here for the same reasons – to network and help each other. Join the fray and, most of all, celebrate yourself and these other amazing women-owned businesses.  We’re out here crushing everyday!

More info and helpful resources for first-timers can be found at WBENC’s site:  First Time Attendees.  See you in Detroit!

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