The hustle and bustle of another conference. You put on your best business attire, make the trek to your first networking event, and take your seat. Your watch ticks closer and closer to the event’s beginning, when you hear, “oh man, I can’t wait to watch the game later. Go State!”.
That’s when you see him, the salesman wearing the suit in the bright colors of his state school. It’s another caught-in-college Chad, and he’s the connection nobody wants to hear from, but everyone, unfortunately, everyone will regardless.
Whether you’ll be attending your first event, or you’ve lost count, we’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list of tips and tricks to make sure you leave feeling like a nifty networker. Come out a connection champion and not that person people avoid on LinkedIn or the open bar.
Scope Out the Scene
When prepping for a conference, you should have a thorough knowledge of the event as a whole. This includes but is not limited to: understanding why you’re attending, what the conference is for, and more. So, research before you go, you won’t regret it.
This way, you can make yourself an itinerary of what talks you want to hear, what activities you want to get involved in, and if (and when) any post-conference events that you may want to attend each night.
Conference Survival Kit
Like anything, you’ll need your essentials. First, always keep a water bottle with you. Hydration is key at these events to stay at the top of your game. Additionally, any expert knows how long these days can be. So, keep a portable charger in your back pocket to keep your devices juiced, and your day on track.
Of course, you want to bring plenty of business cards to exchange with your new connections. And for those hot days, you may want to consider a travel-sized cologne or perfume to keep you smelling like you mean business.
Ground Yourself to Fly High
It’s important to remember that perspective is everything. And here, everyone’s playing field is level. Attendees range from entry-level roles or executives, but if you’re in attendance, you’re there for a reason.
So, enjoy your conversations, make genuine connections, and most importantly, relax. Also, don’t forget that anyone can generate a lead, even if it isn’t the person who you’re talking to.
Don’t Interject, Introduce
The flow of conversation is the most important thing in creating a connection. This goes for everyone. So, don’t interrupt someone else’s conversation.
Instead, you can kindly introduce yourself when it is convenient for all, and when you have something of value to add.
At a networking event, how you introduce and carry yourself is key. So is your elevator pitch. Rehearse this and make sure it’s interesting, but concise (we recommend no more than 30 seconds).
Remember, it’s important for your connections to understand who you are, but it is imperative that you foster the connection through conversation. If they wanted to hear your autobiography, they’d buy your audiobook.
Stand Out, Then Head Out
The most successful conference champions know their limits, as well as their strengths. You want to do what you can to stand out. This may take the form of attire, something you say, or your card.
Regardless of the how, the impact this can leave is priceless. So, figure out what this may be for you, and make sure to quit while you’re ahead. Know when the conversation has run its course, and close it leaving your connection looking forward to your next chat.
Space for Speakers
Speakers are chosen for a reason. Their knowledge has value to all of the attendants of the conference, making them pretty popular people to be sought out by attendees. To make sure you have face time with them, you may choose the common course of approaching speakers as soon as they leave the stage. Yet, we find it best to give them some space.
Talks are taxing and allowing speakers to recover, finding them later will produce a much better conversation, and speakers will thank you for it (speaking from experience).
Pen and Pad
Although you don’t need to bring a physical pen and pad with you, we highly recommend keeping notes on your interactions. Whether it’s a note on your phone, or a quick note written on the back of their business card, any additional information can be useful for you and your colleagues in future interactions.
Snooze on the Booze
Have a drink, maybe two. But you want to remember the conversations you had and the deals you made. Save your drinking for any post-conference events that may pop up.
Also, just because these events may not be as formal as your daytime activities, make sure to maintain a level of professionalism that allows you to continue growing your network while you unwind from the day.
After the conference concludes, make sure to follow up with your connections to maintain the bond you made. This provides a foundation for your relationship to grow and turn into the lead-generation and collaboration tool that you anticipated before the conference began!