Spotlight on Meetings and Conventions
How to maximize networking during an event
During conferences and conventions, as an event attendee, you can sometimes feel as though you can’t carve out enough time for networking, what with a program schedule that is chock full of meetings and presentations, and after-hours activities.
Yet being able to carve out time during your event for networking is a perfect opportunity to source new contacts and strengthen existing relationships with peers, conference speakers and partners.
Feel as though networking during a conference or convention is a seemingly impossible task? We’ve put together some quick and easy tips you can follow to get in some invaluable networking moments.
1 Fine-tune your networking skills
Networking is actually an art that may—or may not—come naturally. Whether you’re a networking Jedi or an intellectual introvert, make sure to spruce up your networking skills. That means checking up on the latest best practices in networking, which can change based on the generations or cultural backgrounds you’ll be exposed to.
If you’re scheduled to attend a major event and simply want to perfect the way you handle connecting with new contacts, scout out smaller, local events to practice introducing yourself to people and striking up conversations with strangers.
Don’t forget that your networking efforts are only as good as the follow-ups you make after your convention or conference. Set aside time once you get back from your event to follow up with the people you’ve met. Don’t simply send a generic message. Rather, rely on the discussions you’ve had to customize your correspondence so that you can get the most out of your networking initiatives.
2 Carry out some pre-event research
As an event attendee, you need to have a purpose for networking at your conference or convention.
Think about what you are trying to achieve by talking to other delegates. Do you want to expand your roster of contacts for potential business partnerships? Are you looking to share knowledge with other professionals? Interested in recruiting experts for a potential project? Take the time to determine who you are most interested in connecting with during the event.
Once you’ve figured out the what and why, start scouring your event’s material and social media accounts to pinpoint the who. Draw up a list of people who are attending who you would like to meet. Leverage your existing relationships with other delegates or the event planner to be introduced to your target networking contacts.
3 Beef up your social media accounts
As an event attendee, your professional social media accounts can help promote your attendance at a specific event in order to boost your credibility in your field of expertise.
However, don’t just stop at event promotion with your social media. First, make sure that your profiles are up-to-date and optimized for each network. For example, make sure your LinkedIn profile features your current professional, educational and volunteering activities.
Second, while you may not be a topic expert, don’t hesitate to connect and engage with other event attendees, sponsor representatives and speakers. Share the content that they post and, when relevant, join groups or associations that are tied to the industry your event caters to. This way, you’re actually becoming part of the event’s community.
4 Participate. Participate. Participate.
Resist the temptation to ditch coffee breaks, meals, receptions and other official event activities—even those after-hour off-sites—to read emails and catch up on your work. These activities have been specifically designed for to bring people together and encourage networking.
Earnestly participating in your event allows you to easily encounter new people. Remember that actively listening and asking compelling questions will not only help you build a rapport with people but also pave the way for follow-ups with strategic contacts you’ve made after the event.
If your event has planned for round table discussions, workshops or training sessions, attend them! These breakout activities are often comprised of smaller groups, which tend to be more conducive to getting to know people, especially if you are not necessarily a people person.
Being an effective networker means putting yourself out there, even though you’re used to being behind the scenes. It also means connecting authentically with potential contacts. Build your relationships one step a time and see how networking is a strong leverage for your career success!