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The Futureforth Blog

Helpful tips and articles about social media strategy, content marketing, and business networking. 

Filtering by Category: Events

Secrets to Breaking the Ice

Dave Delaney

10 Must Know Conference Networking Tips.  Free download here .

10 Must Know Conference Networking Tips. Free download here.

Networking at conferences is not always easy. Have you ever arrived at a networking event or conference alone? It can be daunting to walk up to someone and introduce yourself. What do you talk about? How can you break the ice?

The first step to meeting new people at a conference or networking event is to understand that you are not alone in being alone. Look around the room and note the other people who are standing by themselves, too. This is your opportunity to ease the tension by introducing yourself.

The badges are your invites

If there is one thing every attendee has in common at a conference, it is that they are wearing a badge. That lanyard is your invitation to approach and introduce yourself. Every person wearing one has likely already experienced something similar to you, like perusing the exhibit hall, eating the lunch buffet or attending a keynote presentation.

Use the person's name from their badge when you introduce yourself. Shake their hand and look them in the eye. Your smile and use of their name will be most welcomed. If they have an unusual name, ask how they pronounce it and then repeat it multiple times to help you remember it and to earn their respect.


Kio Stark, author of "When Strangers Meet," uses the term "triangulation" to define finding a common point of interest to discuss. For example, if you are meeting someone exiting the lecture area, you can ask her what she thought of the keynote speaker. If you are leaving the leaving the lunch buffet, you can ask her what she thought of the salmon.

--- Grab my Ten Must Know Conference Networking Tips ---

Picture a triangle. You are on one point. The person you are speaking with is on the other point. And something you both have shared is the third point. This makes breaking the ice much easier. Look around the room for other ideas on something you can talk about, like a piece of art or a view from the window.


As you speak with someone, consider the ice-breaking acronym F.O.R.D. Each letter represents a different topic you can discuss. F is for family, O is for occupation, R is for relaxation and recreation, and D is for dreams and aspirations.

I don't recommend necessarily asking these questions in order. Instead, begin by asking about their occupation since this is more of a general topic. You may learn that the person moved to a different city because their spouse has a new position there. This gets into the topic of family, where you can ask about children, how long they have been married and where they met their spouse.

You can follow up by asking them what they do for fun in their new city. This will lead the conversation into how the person relaxes or finds recreational activities on the weekends. And finally, you might get into talking about career goals and where they would like to retire to or what their summer travel plans are. I don't know about you, but when I think of travel and retirement, I definitely think of relaxation and recreation.

So the next time you arrive alone at a conference, remember that nobody goes to remain alone. People want to talk with you.

Break the ice, ask the questions, listen carefully to their answers, and remember to ask for a business card if you enjoy the conversation. Don't forget to follow up when you return to the office. Following up is the second most important step in networking after showing up.

For more conference networking tips visit:

Disrupt or Be Disrupted

Dave Delaney

I have been working in social media marketing for more than ten years. I have worked in marketing, promotions and communications for nearly twenty. When I learn new things about this industry, I can’t help but be inspired and excited.

This week, I had the good fortune of being invited as an attendee of a digital marketing conference in Nashville. Sprinklr, a social media management platform, held it’s first conference, Digital Transformation Summit (#unenterprise on Twitter).

95% of CEOs think going digital is critical, but only 25% have a digital strategy.

The lineup of impressive speakers included smart people like Cisco’s John Chambers, Altimeter’s Charlene Li, Twitter’s Chris Moody, and Sprinklr’s Ragy Thomas and Carlos Dominguez. There were also many breakout sessions with speakers from a wide variety of large brands and agencies. I loved the networking too but I'm partial to that.

I learned new things like, ninety-five percent of CEOs think going digital is critical, but only twenty-five percent actually have a digital strategy. That’s shocking to hear but also not a surprise based on my own experiences with many of my clients.

As a business leader, the important thing is to be constantly changing to grow your company. Technology adoption takes time it requires an evolution of both tool capabilities and human processes to be successful.

I learned that we should focus a little less on measuring what we have and instead concentrate on measuring what we need. I was also reminded that while content is king, context should be queen. As marketers we all need to stop and ask ourselves why we are creating a particular piece of content like a blog post or video.

"If you stay in silos and don’t disrupt yourself; you will be Ubered."

Another important takeaway from the summit is to consider how silos in your company can effect employee moral and customer outreach. I heard everything from tips on tearing down the silos to finding ways to at least build windows within those silos to improve communication.

John Chambers from Cisco was probably the most empowering of the speakers I saw. He said, “If you stay in silos and don’t disrupt yourself; you will be ubered.” That was the first time I had heard someone use Uber as a verb. It was a sobering realization for many of the attendees I spoke with after his impressive presentation.

It is essential to consider how your business is disrupting your industry. John Chambers said, “disrupt or be disrupted.” He told the audience that change makes us all uncomfortable, but not changing has much graver consequences. If you won’t make a bet on the future of your company, you have already determined your future.

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This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.

6 Tips To Create A Killer Networking Group

Dave Delaney

Create Your Networking Group

One of the best ways to grow your professional network is to host your own networking group. A few months after moving to Nashville, I created Geek Breakfast as a way to keep our growing technology community together. Five years ago, I launched Nashcocktail, to connect local social media professionals. You can create a group too, if you follow these five simple steps.

1. Begin with your goals. What do you hope to gain from creating a networking group?

My intention with the groups I created was to connect people and build community. I could measure this by reviewing membership and attendee numbers each month to be sure we were growing.

2. Find an available or underserved niche.

Do a simple Google search to find events in your city related to your niche. Don’t be discouraged if you find groups already exist. You should attend the events to understand how they are run. Ask yourself how your group would be different.

You may also discover a dormant group. Reach out to the organizer and ask if you can take it over. That’s what Jeff Dolan did with the Nashville Filmmakers group. Jeff explains how he did it in my interview below, plug in your headphones and enjoy.

3. Connect with and invite local leaders in the your niche.

I’m a big fan of the FollowerWonk tool. You can use this to search Twitter bios in a specific location. For example, you can search “author” and “Nashville” and find anyone on Twitter around the city, who include author in their bio. FollowerWonk will show you who are the most influential based on the number of followers they have and tweets they create.

Use LinkedIn to search for companies who provide products or services related to your niche. For example, if you are creating a networking group for the travel industry, search for travel agents, hotels, and airlines on LinkedIn. Find the people who work for the companies and reach out to invite them to your group. Once you determine the names of the companies you can also see if you have friends who work there using a simple Facebook search.

4. Use a service like MeetUp, Facebook Events, or Eventbrite to create your invitation. is a good site to create a group around a reoccurring event. Facebook Events should be used in conjunction with your Facebook Page to organize events. Eventbrite is an alternative to TicketMaster for event organizers to create tickets.

5. Reach out to everyone you know to announce the event.

Use social media, email, and pick up the phone. You want to promote the heck out of your group to get a good turnout. The first event is important because you want group members to return next time.

You may choose to pay to promote your group’s event on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I can help you with this if you need to better understand how to affordably advertise on these platforms.

6. Poll your attendees before the event to learn more about their specific needs, so you can better serve them.

Use SurveyMonkey to create a short, simple survey. Send it to your members to ask them what they hope to gain from attending your event and being a member of your group.

Sending an occasional survey to members can also help you get the pulse of your group to ensure everyone is enjoying their membership.

Creating and running your own networking group isn't difficult. However, it takes time to grow and nurture your group. Be patient and listen to your members, they will ultimately determine if your group is a success.

If you have questions about organizing your own group and events, reach out to me with a comment below or on Twitter @davedelaney.

How Women Network and Girls to the Moon

Dave Delaney

My friend, Courtenay Rogers, is an incredibly well networked person. She is president of the Nashville chapter of the American Marketing Association (NAMA) and is co-founder and COO of the upcoming conference, Girls To The Moon. This week I interviewed her about the importance of networking and to share more about this important event for young girls.

How has networking helped shape your career?

I've always enjoyed meeting new people and it's a natural part of my life. I'm a Navy brat, so moving every two years growing up forced me to make new friends very quickly. Being the new kid in class so often helped me grow up to be the person who walks up to a group of people and says hello. I'm still that way today.

I'm a connector. My passion in life is to connect good people doing good things with others who can help. Networking needs to be about the big picture of helping others and if you're expecting something in return, ultimately you're not going to be successful.

What is your best networking tip for marketing professionals or those attending local industry events?

The best advice I can give is to get the list of attendees before the event if you can. Then look up the people you want to connect with on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. Also, if the event has a hashtag, make sure you check it out and see what people are saying and connect with those folks, too.

What is Girls to the Moon? 

GTTM is a social enterprise company focused on empowering young girls ages 8 to 14. We're starting with a one-day campference (mix between a camp-style unconference and a conference) in Nashville on Sept. 26 that brings girls together to build their curiosity and creativity, strengthen their relationships and grow their confidence to become leaders.

Girls to the Moon is about surrounding the next generation of girls with truth and education on topics ranging from creative writing and coding to healthy relationships and sex. We want to be a catalyst for conversation about how girls should love themselves, feel comfortable in their own skin and become the best humans they can be.

Do men and women network with one another differently? If so, how?

I think men and women are different, period. So yes, they would naturally network differently. I notice that women ask more personal questions while men keep it a lot more superficial and focused on business. Neither is bad. I personally like different.

Girls to the Moon sounds like an amazing opportunity for girls from 8 to 14. What key lessons do you want them to take away from the conference?

It's super simple: We want these girls to love themselves, love others and know that they have absolutely every opportunity to do whatever they want in life.

What is the best way for new relationships born at Girls to the Moon or elsewhere at other conferences to be nurtured so they last years instead of days?

Our goal is to eventually build an app for the girls to use to stay connected, but for the first campference, we're going to make sure they exchange emails and use the hashtag #gttm15 in their conversations so they can connect on social media as well. The younger crowd will probably ask for phone numbers. My daughter has my business card and hands it out to her friends, so she can connect with them after school. We do have a great email list that people can join to keep up with all things GTTM on our website.

Be sure to learn more about this conference at

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean newspaper.

7 Tips for Organizing Networking Events and Meet Ups

Dave Delaney

Nashcocktail Nashville MeetUp Mixer featured in the Tennessean

Have you ever wanted to organize your own event? Do you already run an event, but you are not satisfied with how it is going? This post is for you.

I will celebrate the fifth anniversary of my monthly networking event, Nashcocktail, next month. If you’re not familiar, Nashcocktail is a monthly networking mixer for social media enthusiasts and professionals in Nashville, Tennessee 

It all began after the first Social Media Day event. The organizers were not practitioners of social media, instead they were piggy backing off the popular day of celebration for social media pros. A few attendees and I agreed that we should be the ones hosting such an event because we work, live and breathe social media. As we were departing that evening, I came up with the idea. I bought the domain and announced Nashcocktail to my friends the following day.

We work, live and breathe social media

Nashcocktail hasn't been a smash hit every month though. Attendees always have a good time, but I have learned many lessons along the way.

Since July 2010, thousands of people have attended my monthly mixers. Relationships have been born at Nashcocktail that led to friendships, partnerships, jobs and more. The following are seven tips to help you make your event a success.


1. Size matters. Choose a venue that isn’t so big that it looks empty and that’s not so small that the sound is too loud. I held Nashcocktail in a few venues where the sound was just too much. A few people were frustrated that they could not hear the person they were speaking with. Size really does matter.

2. Parking helps. If you can find a venue that has plenty of free parking, your attendees will be that much happier. If not, be sure to provide instructions on where they should park. If they drive around the venue a few times without success, they may end up driving home.

3. Intro circle. Allow your attendees to each take a moment to introduce who they are, what they do and what they hope to gain from attending the event. Point out that this is so people can connect with one another.

4. Highlight your sponsor. I always have my sponsor spend a couple of minutes explaining who they are and what they do. I also promote them like crazy across social media, on our site and in our email newsletters. We love our sponsors.

5. Take a picture, it’ll last longer. I snap plenty of photos at each event. I share them on the Facebook page, so attendees can return and check them out the next day. I always have the next month’s event ready, so they can RSVP while they are there.

6. What’s your name again? I stress that attendees must RSVP on our Facebook events. I do this so they can return and put a name to a face, in case they forgot to ask for a business card.

7. Encourage feedback. I always ask attendees and sponsors for feedback, so I can make the event better. I do a yearly survey to check in, too.

If you’re in Nashville (or visiting), you should join us at the next Nashcocktail. The event is always free to attend, so what have you got to lose? Visit for details.

Do you have experience organizing events? Leave a comment with your own tip please. 

This article was originally posted in The Tennessean.

Are You Ready to Rock?

Dave Delaney

Rock Your Influence I spend a fair amount of time speaking about business networking and social media marketing at conferences and corporate events. My presentations are typically around 45 minutes. The feedback is great, but I always have this feeling that I could have shared so much more. Good news, I found a way I can.

I met Amber Hurdle when I was speaking at New Media Expo back in January. She’s a smart management coach with brilliant expertise in public relations and event management (among other things). Imagine my surprise when I learned that she is based in Nashville too!

Are you ready to rock?

Amber and I have put together a full-day seminar we’re calling, Rock Your Influence. On July 16th, at Bongo Java Theatre in Nashville, we will be presenting this to a group of small and medium sized business owners and managers in Nashville. We want you to join us there.

There’s a lot more to this seminar, like access to a private Facebook group where we will continue to help you after our day together. We’re even planning a cocktail hour, so we can continue to network with one another and find ways to help you with your business. The curriculum we have put together is stellar to say the least.

Save $200

You can learn more and grab your ticket at Space is limited for this event. We’re intentionally keeping it intimate, so you can get the attention you need and your questions answered.

Interested in joining us on July 16th? Use coupon code: DAVED and save $200! Visit

I hope to see you there.

What is PodCamp Nashville and Why Attend

Dave Delaney

Podcamp Nashville photo by Kerry Woo.Have you heard of PodCamp Nashville? It’s a free “unconference” held each year to celebrate Nashville’s digital talent. Unconference because of its open structure where anyone can present and everyone is considered equal. PodCamp brings together podcasters, bloggers, social media professionals, developers, designers, and anyone who loves to create and consume content online. On May 17th (Saturday), PodCamp Nashville will be celebrating its seventh year. Hundreds of outgoing technology enthusiasts will connect at Nossi College of Art and Design to learn, share, and network with fellow web professionals and novices. It’s an unforgettable event you should join us for if you're in the area. It’s also completely free to attend thanks to generous sponsors.

The TechnologyAdvice Podcast recently featured an interview with this year’s PodCamp Nashville Chair, Carla Swank; PodCamp co-founder, Chris Brogan; and myself. Full disclosure, TechnologyAdvice is a client. Clark Buckner did a wonderful job chatting about the history and future of PodCamp.

I enjoyed hearing more about how PodCamp was born in September, 2006 in Boston. Chris Brogan explained how he and co-founder, Chris Penn, open-sourced the event. This made it simple for local chapters to create their own PodCamps (like we did in Nashville). I wrote about organizing your own events in my book, New Business Networking. This is a great way to connect and grow your community! 

PodCamp Needs a New Name

Chris talked about how de-centralized organizations and events are the way of the future. He spoke about the future of unconferences like PodCamp and BarCamp. He believes the events may need to be re-skinned by losing the word “camp”. I can speak to this first-hand. It still disappoints me each year when I hear from people who should have attended PodCamp, but who didn’t understand what the event is. They get confused by the name and think it has to do with camping. I always explain that it is a free, community event, created and run by the community, for the community. If you have an interest in social media and online content, you need to be there. Trust me on this.

What to Expect at PodCamp Nashville

Clark spoke with Carla Swank on the podcast, who leads the tireless volunteers organizing the event this year. She explained that every job she has had in Nashville is a result from her involvement in attending, speaking, or organizing PodCamp. She found a similar experience when she worked on PodCamp Pittsburgh where she is from. On organizing these events, Carla said, “You form really tight bonds, you really do. They have become some of my best friends”.

Carla said she is most excited about PodCamp Nashville because of the Friday night meet and greet at the Entrepreneur Center. She is also excited about a new category this year for creatives. PodCamp Nashville is being held at Nossi College of Art, so it will make a perfect location for learning and connecting with one another.

Chris Brogan told Clark something that stood out to me during their interview, “You’ve got to come with your ideas intact and with all of your feelings, thoughts and notions on what you are going to do to deliver value, or it’s just not going to be a good event for you.”

PodCamp really is what you put into it. Come prepared to learn, share, and meet new people. You are guaranteed to have fun (or your money back).

Did I mention PodCamp Nashville is free? I hope to see you on Saturday. Online registration is now closed, but walk-up registrations are  welcome. Check out the sessions and see why you should plan to attend.

Photo by Kerry Woo. This post originally appeared in the Tennessean newspaper.

7 Tips for Event Organizers and Attendees

Dave Delaney

Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing SquidIf you spend any time on social media, it was hard to miss technology news coming from Austin, TX recently. The annual, South by Southwest Festival was in full swing. SXSW is actually three festivals under one umbrella, music, film, and interactive. It was at the largest of the three, Interactive, where companies like Foursquare and Twitter got their humble beginnings. South by Southwest Interactive is run by Hugh Forrest. I recently interviewed Hugh on my podcast. You can hear our discussion and read the show notes here. He shared his wisdom on organizing and attending events, which inspired this post.

Whether the event draws a handful of people or thirty-thousand like SXSW Interactive, there are key things you need to know to make your experience a success.

7 tips for event organizers and attendees

1. Start with passion. Find out what attendees are seeking in an event. Hugh explained, "The more you can engage and work with the community, and reflect the passion, interest, and energy of the community, the stronger the event will become." If you are attending an event, find ones that are related to what you are most passionate about.

2. Size doesn't matter. The important thing is whether attendees find value in your event. Hugh pointed out that slow growth is good growth. Let your event grow organically.

3. Break out of your group. If you are attending or hosting an event, try to meet new people. It's easy to stay with the people you know, but you will get the most return by breaking out of the group and introducing yourself to new people.

4. Attend the unknown. Go to events you know little about. This will broaden your mind. You will come away with new contacts who you wouldn't typically meet elsewhere. Attending the unknown may inspire ideas for your own event.

5. Follow up. The second most important part of networking is the follow up. The first is getting out there and meeting people. Send the people you met an email, invite them to connect on LinkedIn, or offer to buy them a coffee or lunch. Find a way you can bring value to your new contact. Perhaps you can provide them with an important introduction to someone in your network.

6. Don't reinvent the wheel. In episode two of New Business Networking Radio, I interview Jeff Dolan, who runs the Nashville Filmmakers meet up group. Jeff explained that he took over the group, which was dormant. If you are interested in starting your own event, begin with a Google search to see what already exists. It may be easier than you think.

7. Embrace Serendipity. Hugh Forrest left my listeners with a line that I love, "Surrender to serendipity". This was in reference to the chaotic crowds in Austin during SXSW, but can be just as relevant in every event we attend or organize. Go with the flow and trust your gut.

When you are finished reading this post, do a quick search for events in your area. Use Google, and check services like and to see what's coming up. In Nashville? Check out the Wannado app.

Don't be shy, click that RSVP button and add it to your calendar. Who knows, maybe I'll see you there.

Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

This article, “How to get the most out of business events“, originally appeared in The Tennessean newspaper.

Heading to New Orleans

Dave Delaney

Photo by evanforester_I am thrilled to be the keynote speaker for the 36th Annual International Collegiate Conference in New Orleans on April 10th. The conference is presented by the American Marketing Association, an organization I hold near and dear to my heart. I am a proud board member of the Nashville chapter. In my book, New Business Networking, I share the story of coming to Nashville from Toronto without knowing a soul. It was the kind people at the Nashville Chapter of the AMA (NAMA) who helped me land on my feet. Networking at NAMA events led to my first job in my new city.

Networking has always been an important part of who I am. I inadvertently became an expert in it without knowing exactly what networking was. When I was a student in Toronto, I had to aggressively network my way in front of senior decision makers to get a job. Eighty percent of positions are not advertised. If you want to be hired, you must learn to network effectively.

[Tweet "80% of jobs are not advertised. If you want to be hired, you must learn to network effectively."]

The same can be said for ambitious, young entrepreneurs. Without a strong network, you will find the journey difficult at best. Strong networks can get your product or service into the hands of the right people and can lead to potential investors and co-founders.

I sympathize with students who are frustrated with the job market. They graduate with stress-inducing debts that need to be paid off quickly. Students are itching to jump start their careers, and I want to help them do it.

My keynote presentation will share techniques and tips to build and nurture a strong network. I'll share examples, my own stories, and effective ways to use social media and events that will lead to a bright career.

Be sure to let me know if you will be there. It's always great to start networking before you attend an event.

Photo by evanforester.

Essential tips for business cards

Dave Delaney

gagaSticks Did you hear the recent story about Chinese multimillionaire Chen Guangbiao's outrageous business card? His card made big news across the web recently (so did he) because of the outlandish job titles he had featured on it. Three of my favorites are, "Most Influential Person Of China", "Most Prominent Philanthropist of China” and “Most Charismatic Philanthropist of China". In my book, New Business Networking, I reserve a chapter dedicated to the importance of business cards. A smart networker never leaves home without cards. Don't believe anyone who tells you they are going away or a thing of the past. Business cards are here to stay - at least for the foreseeable future.

[Tweet "A smart networker never leaves home without business cards."]

It is not only paramount to carry your business cards, it is also important to be smart in how you use them. There is nothing worse than the guy at the networking event who rapidly hands out business cards. Are you guilty of trying to hand out and collect as many cards as possible? Think again, it's quality over quantity. I would rather walk away from an event with some genuine new relationships than pockets full of cards.

I recommend using apps like CardMunch and Evernote Hello to scan and upload card information to your LinkedIn account after you receive them. Be sure to take notes about the people you meet on the cards if possible. My business card is designed to encourage you to fill in the blanks. The rear of the card has fields to write where you met me, what we talked about, and how you should follow up.

Business Card Design is Important

The design of your card is important. I use a photo on mine, so you can remember me after we met. A company called Tribe Gaga impressed me recently by sending some personalized chewing gum business cards called, GAGAsticks. Each package of what appears to be a stick of chewing gum includes two wrapped items. One is a traditional stick of gum, which is great to refresh the breathe of any busy networker. The second is a magnetic business card. Mine includes my photo, contact info, and my book information on the other side. I think it's a brilliant way to be memorable.

I asked friends on Facebook for their favorite examples of unique business cards and many recommended author, Jay Baer's bottle opener card. It's a brilliant idea, because it's a card most people won't want to part with. I have included some photos of these cards here.

Be Mindful With Your Business Cards

No matter the type of business card you choose, it's crucial to be mindful with it. Always ask for someone else's card before offering your own. This doesn't mean you should ask for everyone's card you meet. Strike up a conversation or join others. If it's appropriate, ask for their card. There is no harm in asking if the moment is right or if you are wrapping up your conversation.

Lastly, be sure to follow up. Find a way that you can help them, like introducing them to someone in your network. Invite them to join you on LinkedIn by using an original connection request message that reminds them who you are and where you met. Refer back to the notes you made on the cards when following up. Who knows, you may have just met the most charismatic philanthropist of China.

If you have an idea for a business card, get started right now. MagicPrint has a sweet deal plus free shipping (affiliate link).

This article, "Be smart in using your business card", originally appeared in The Tennessean newspaper.