Having industry knowledge is as important as the people you know who will help you thrive in the marketplace,versus barely scraping by. With the advent of technology and its dominance worldwide, one old business adage still rings true — networking builds businesses and professional careers.
Much of networking occurs at conferences, and every professional needs to make it a regular practice to attend at least one annually. Conferences also provide opportunities for learning and getting your professional feet wet, while meeting awesome people who can take your career to the next level. Want to impress? These six networking tips will help you conquer your next conference:
1. Don’t Wear Yourself Out
Dress to impress, but don’t wear yourself out. You don’t have to attend every session just because you or your employer paid for the experience.
You can’t experience what the conference has to offer if you’re crunching time and jogging to make each session against the clock. Before you know it, the conference is over.
You’ve given participatory comments in group exercises, but beyond that — you haven’t made any real connections aside from talking about your flight and the weather. Tell Amanda you admired her comments and why when you’re in a group exercise. Connect!
Outside of these sessions, your primary target areas will be the lobby and where the coffee is. Make eye contact, and earnestly ask someone how they’re enjoying the conference and what they recommend. Introduce yourself and trade information. Link up on LinkedIn.
2. Striking Up a Conversation
How are you supposed to talk to someone you’ve never met? Most adults have been trying to figure this out since childhood, but the great thing about kids is that when they’re curious, shyness tends to fade. Let your curiosity, passion and authenticity show and inspire you to network at conferences.
Another important factor world is the fact that you only get one shot at a first impression. The pressure is intense for introverts and extroverts alike, but luckily, positive body language makes breaking the ice easier. Make eye contact and smile to give a good first impression. Be natural, and open with an earnest compliment or observation. Keep your comments relevant and kind. Asking someone about themselves is another way to take the pressure off of making a first impression.
3. Who Do You Need to Meet?
As your eyes scanned the list of special guest speakers and sessions, someone caught your eye. Who was it? What professional are you feeling the fandom for? Don’t fanboy or fangirl too hard in person, though — it’s a turn-off.
Start with clear objectives. If there is a speaker you admire, your first goal will be to secure a spot in their session. Prepare your questions in advance. Take notes and connect. Remember, the professionals who attend to hear this specific speaker are your type of people, and you automatically have a topic to talk about. This idea also applies to specific sessions you’ll attend out of interest and for professional development.
Before the speaker’s session, don’t be afraid to send an earnest tweet on Twitter as a social shout out!
4. Don’t Pitch Everyone
Don’t be that person who thinks they’re a hotshot and constantly pitches everyone they meet. Hold off on the elevator pitch, and take a solid minute to be approachable to others.
Professional relationships are a two-way street, and if you want to develop one, your first objective is to practice active listening. Stay in the moment with who you’re talking with, and listen for key points in their story to redirect your thoughts accurately back to them. When you’re unclear on a point, ask for clarification. While debates can be lively and interesting as a professional, try not to offend others.
5. Get Involved in Planned Conference Social Events
Conference organizers realize that professionals attend to make connections. Many conferences list the itinerary in detail on the website or Eventbrite. You can also follow the conference on Twitter with its specific hashtag to find events.
See if you need to pay in advance or hold a particular membership status to attend certain events, such as a charity dinner, or just show up to a coffee meet and greet with your conference I.D. Conference social events are a low key way to make connections and build your network.
Not everyone at the conference will want to talk or exchange information, and that’s okay. You’re attending to learn, grow your network and enjoy yourself professionally. Those who say “Thanks, but no thanks” leave room for specific types of professionals who will help fulfill particular needs and goals that you have.
Be authentic and approachable, beginning with good eye contact and smiling. Take breaks, and break the ice by sharing relevant and interesting information, actively listening to all comments. Get involved in group exercises and social events outside of the conference.
In no time, you’ll make great first impressions and get an array of name cards to add to your network. When you get back to home base, follow up and develop those mutually beneficial business relationships!
Author Bio: Nathan Sykes is a technology and business writer from Pittsburgh, PA. To read his thoughts on the latest tech news and updates, check out his blog, Finding an Outlet.