Categories: Global Summit 2023
By: Yasmina Khelifi, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA, PMP
When my taxi driver picked me up at the airport after coming home from the United States, he asked me: "What did you visit in Atlanta?" I answered, " I didn’t really get to visit the area. I was in a conference." With a surprised face, he replied: "It is a pity."
But I probably couldn’t have conveyed what the PMI Global Summit truly meant. I wouldn't have understood it if I hadn’t taken part myself. You feel the energy, the power of being part of such a worldwide community. It takes time and money to take part, but words cannot express all the happy learnings you take with you. You must experience it!
PMI Global Summit is a mega-networking event. More than 3,000 project managers from around the world take part. It is so impressive to meet the world in such a benevolent and friendly atmosphere. I’m also a volunteer at PMI chapters, and am a global volunteer—which increases the number of friends I make.
At my hotel (where the PMI staff was also staying), I bumped into some peers. At breakfast, I took a PMI bag to hopefully create opportunities to meet people…but because I ate early and was almost the only one in the breakfast room, I had to utilize other opportunities to network. Here are some lessons that stood out to me from Global Summit; practice them next year when you go (or for any conference you attend):
1. Choose how to connect quickly. LinkedIn provides a QR code for your profile. The event app enabled you to customize your profile (which I discovered afterward; next time, I’ll try to add my LinkedIn profile).
Some people also still have business cards, which can save you some time at the event.
Have a pen and notepad or a digital tool to take notes about people you meet (the event app also enabled users to add notes to people’s profiles).
2. Choose your plan to network with participants. You need to develop a plan to make the most of it.
For people you know and are in contact with on Linkedin:
I know so many people from the PMI community, so my question before the trip was: "Are you going to Atlanta?" I wrote down their names and the dates of their arrivals and departures.
I also made a list of people I wanted to meet, but there were so many that I couldn’t meet them all. You must accept you cannot meet everyone—time flies too quickly. Yet once the event begins, you will meet new people.
For people you don’t know:
I sat next to a different person every time (whether in a session or while eating), and I introduced myself by my name and country. It was a great way to improve my networking skills. Then I exchanged LinkedIn contacts right away. (The LinkedIn profile also opens up new questions like, “You earned the PMI-ACP? I’d like to know more about it.”)
Whether you know people before or not, try to follow up after the event. If you promised to send a document or an article, do it (it looks unprofessional to say, “I’ll send it to you later”…and then not do it.). I jotted down my action points and followed through.
3. Choose your plan to network with speakers. When you attend a session, you can connect with the speaker to share your takeaways and feedback. At the end of the session, you can liaise with the speaker—but sometimes you need to be patient (everyone wants to talk to them!). This is a bit trickier with some speakers.
4. Seize every opportunity! During breaks or lunches, you can talk more. You can learn so much from these casual encounters. That is part of the networking game—to talk to strangers, laugh with people you otherwise would have never met, take pictures to remember the experience, and connect on LinkedIn. I am confident about networking online, but I had some fears before the Summit about live networking. During the event, I was able to experiment in a safe environment—and now I’ve gained more confidence for participating in live events.
Atlanta was my first PMI Global Summit, and it was also my first time in the United States as an adult (I went to New York when I was 10). I not only embarked on a tourist trip in America; more importantly, I embarked on a learning journey about project managers as humans, thanks to PMI. I hope to take part in Los Angeles in September of 2024!
What networking tips have you found helpful at conferences?