Conference Networking To The Max – Become a Social Beast
Attending a conference, or any event really is an excellent business opportunity. You have the chance to meet and link with people who can help you advance your career, push your project, or stimulate the growth of your company. Networking is all about having a plan and going out into the wild with an extrovert attitude. It seems easy enough but it takes more effort to make this endeavor a success. Stay with me as I lay down the guidelines for networking like a pro.
Many networking newbies’ plan probably goes along the lines of “alright, I’m going to approach some people, have a chat, and exchange business cards”.
This isn’t necessarily wrong, but it’s far from maximizing your opportunities. Efficient networking involves three main stages, all of which require certain actions to be taken.
Follow the guide below to put yourself in the best position possible to expand your network and establish new business contacts.
Have a plan and know what you’re going to do. Aim for several strong and meaningful connections instead of many weak ones.
Create a framework
When prepping for conference networking, keep a specific and realistic goal in mind. What is it that you’re trying to achieve? Are you looking for a new employer, a new business partner, or to simply grow your network within the industry?
Defining your goals like that will help you structure the visit better, give you direction, and help use time efficiently. Be prepared to not only push your agenda but also eagerly listen to what others have to say.
Find out who’s going to be there
Event organizers usually publish the list of exhibitors and speakers online ahead of time. Look up the businesses and other guests that will be attending the conference. Keynoters, in particular, may prove to be influencers who can push you in the industry, share inspiring ideas off-stage with you, or take some time to provide insights on your project.
Take some time to research their websites and social media profiles, including LinkedIn. If you’ll happen to find some of them particularly interesting, you may try to link up in advance.
Reach out in advance
Which brings us to another step you can take in order to maximize your conference networking efforts. Consider reaching out to your potential chat partners and letting them know you intend to approach them at the conference and that you’re excited about it. This is the foot in the door you can later fall back on to start the conversation.
Develop a personal agenda
To get the most out of a workout, it’s best to have and stick to a training plan, instead of jumping from one machine to another, doing some pushes here, and some pulls there.
Going to a conference, you should create a personal schedule to boost your networking gains. Make sure you know whose booth is where, who’s going to speak about what at what time, etc. Referring to my previous point, try to fill out some spots in the agenda with quick coffee breaks involving the individuals you contacted in advance.
It’s go time! Put yourself in the extrovert extraordinaire mode.
Introduce yourself properly
It may seem obvious, but try to make a conscious effort to be friendly when approaching people. The thing is some individuals just don’t seem very nice by nature, even though they have no malicious intent. It’s simply the way they are.
Also, developing your elevator pitch of up to 30 seconds will definitely help you network at conferences and other events. Keep in mind the attendants will all have limited time and you’re not the only person they’ll talk to.
It’s a good idea to practice the pitch at home but make sure to not sound too robotic in the actual situation. Pay attention to the other person’s reactions too instead of focusing solely on how you come off.
Ask questions and listen
When interacting with another conference participant, focus on their answers. Don’t overwhelm them with your own talking and actively invite the person to speak. Curb your enthusiasm and never finish sentences for them.
Up your body language proficiency too – maintain occasional eye contact, nod, have a relaxed stance. Don’t get too tense, enjoy the conversation and try to connect on multiple levels.
Hit the afterparty
Instead of staying in your hotel room, make plans to attend the afterparty, if there is one. I get it, you’ll be tired but this should actually help you unwind a little while still being able to network in a relaxed environment.
Don’t just talk shop, though. Start with something informal and unrelated to business. Also, the afterparty may be your chance to approach the speaker you weren’t able to reach after the presentation.
Start nurturing contacts made at the event.
Reach out in a prompt manner
Keep striking while the iron’s hot. There’s no single, perfect day for contacting the people you met, but make sure to do it within a couple of days from the event.
Whatever contact channel you’ll use, refer to the conversation you had and send relevant links or materials. If it makes sense, bring in more people into the conversation to enrich it and create more opportunities for all parties involved.
Link up on social media
Don’t be afraid to hit that Follow button. Social media are a great way to stay connected on a day-to-day basis and know what others are up to. Once you get to know your new contacts better, you may find even more common ground and opportunities for doing business.
You may want to send a short private message after you follow a particular person to remind them of who you are and what you’re about. Tweeting about the conference and tagging people you met while you’re still there might be another good idea.
And there you have it – a handy guide to conference networking. Follow the steps I laid out and see your contacts list grow.
Bring a bunch of business cards with you just in case, even though people often just enter the details into a phone these days. Check if there’s an event app and what it offers.
Think of the connections you made long term. Anything can happen down the line. If someone emails you, reply even if you didn’t consider them a strong business partner at first.
Networking is about putting yourself and what you offer out to the world. Go out there and enjoy the moment!