Among other important goals, a huge reason we travel for conferences and spend time away from our family and friends is to make worthwhile professional connections. Sure, there are the sessions and the beloved sponsored parties and such, but networking is the real meat of the conference. Networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and for those to whom it does come naturally; there is always room for a tip or two.
Conference season is upon us! Make the most of your travel and time with some of these conference networking tips.
Networking opportunities start long before you hit the conference floor. Social media is a great way to get your foot in the door and check out what other attendees are saying. Search for Twitter lists on the conference website, or through the conference hashtag. These lists will get you connected with the “movers and shakers” of the conference. You should also find the conference LinkedIn group. If there isn’t one, start it! Google blog posts or articles about the conference. These will often include party round-ups, Twitter lists and insider tips and tricks. When you spot these juicy little nuggets of information, follow the creator on LinkedIn and Twitter and leave a positive comment. And don’t forget to follow and compliment the speakers.
Conferences usually enlist the help of volunteers as greeters who hand out schedules or direct people. If the opportunity should arise, be the first to raise your hand! This is a great way to get to know people at the conference. When making connections with complete strangers isn’t your favorite thing to do, helping out and getting involved is the way to go. Furthermore, you will get to meet conference coordinators and the behind the scenes gang. These are always good people to know. You are now in a position to be recognized, even if you’re the dude who handed them the schedule, attendees will have a mental snap shot of your face. These opportunities are all over the place. Offer your assistance for after parties, fundraisers and meet-ups.
Get Off Your Phone
It can get uncomfortable or just plain boring walking the floor, searching for connections, and our first instinct is to check email, hop on Facebook or LinkedIn, or even just pretend that we’re doing something important. Don’t go with that instinct! Everyone else around you is trying to do the same thing you are –connect. When your nose is buried in your iPhone, it’s a clear signal that you’re busy and should not be disturbed. Keep your head up and eyes off your phone. Meet people in real life.
We all do it, we meet all of these fantastic people, gather their perfectly crafted business cards and never, ever talk to them again. Do you have a junk drawer full of business cards that you swear you will go through and follow-up with? Yeah, we all do. Don’t let those business cards go to the drawer where connections die! Make the time to follow up. Follow them on Twitter and let them know how pleased you were to meet them. Connect with and endorse them on LinkedIn, or actually give them a call or text. A quick email thanking them for their time will also go a long way. You’ve done the hard part and made the initial connection, don’t get lazy now.
We’ll Leave You With Some No-Brainers That We Have to Mention:
- Smell good
- Bring a TON of business cards (and actually use them)
- Walk the floor
- Don’t get smashed at the parties (at least not noticeably)
- Don’t forget to shut up and let people talk
- Don’t forget to talk