Networking is one of the leading activities at conferences, so you want to make sure you’re giving the best impression when forming new connections. It can be overwhelming to be continually putting yourself out there, hoping to meet the right people, attend the right event, and at the same time learn more about your industry. If you take the time to prepare, it can go a long way. Here are some essential tips to help put you at ease when it comes to productive and useful networking at conferences.
It can be daunting to try and figure out which people you want to introduce yourself to in the spur of the moment, especially if you don’t know them very well. To relieve some anxiety, do some prep work. Take a look at who’s going to events, who are on panels, and choose which people you would want to connect. Read up on their bios, get familiar with who they are. Find out what interests them outside of work, e.g., a hobby, sports, travel and use that to spark a conversation. It can help make initial interactions go smoothly and take the pressure off of only talking about work.
There’s always going to be tons of people lining up to talk to speakers after their presentation. These situations make it hard to get a word in or have a meaningful conversation. Research ahead of time the people you want to meet the most and contact them before the conference to schedule a time to chat. Doing this can help you stand out from those who are fighting for their time last minute and shows a genuine interest in what they have to say.
You might have heard this one before, but it is useful. Pick a statement piece or unique outfit that has a story associated with it or has a specific meaning. Say you’re waiting in line and someone compliments your bag. You tell them that you recently went to Italy and bought it at a vintage leather store. Your story automatically breaks the ice to kick-start a conversation.
Conferences usually schedule so many activities, and it’s hard to keep track! That’s why if you research ahead of time which ones will be most valuable to you, you’ll get the most out of the experience without being worn-out by the end. Come up with your goals in going to the conference. What do you want to get out of the event? What kinds of people do you want to meet? Thinking about these points can then help guide you in choosing the best activities for you.
If writing is your thing, whether you have a blog or post articles on your website, you can get to know a lot about a person from briefly interviewing them. Interviews can help create an incentive to talk to someone and take the edge off of not knowing how to introduce yourself. It’s also a bonus to post about your experience at a conference, showing your insights about what you’ve learned.
Remember to ask meaningful questions to show a keen interest in who you’re talking to, look approachable when waiting in lines, and engage in the event space. Make small talk to the person beside you or introduce yourself to someone new.
Keep these ideas in mind at your next conference, and you’ll be ready for anything and anyone that comes your way.