Conference networking is a valuable takeaway in the form of new relationships and essential contacts. Apart from the learning experience, a conference provides excellent opportunities for networking, business or career development.
However, if you want networking to be a game-changer, you need to approach it with the right attitude. Before attending a conference, you need to set objectives of the new relationships you intend to build. It is prudent to have a clear plan on how to break the ice and start a conversation. If you have a conference coming up, here are some dos and don’ts for effective networking.
The Dos of conference networking
1. Engage with attendees beforehand
Networking events usually have social media pages or websites where you can browse through the list of attendees. You can engage with the guests before the conference using the event’s hashtag on twitter. You can also send an email to an attendee expressing your interest in their work. You may mention that you would like to introduce yourself during the event. Prior engagement and social networking make it easier to strike a face to face conversation during the conference and get another meeting.
2. Be ready with a conversation starter
Conference networking is all about knowing the right thing to say at the right time. Therefore, you should prepare a conversation starter. For instance, you can inquire about attendee’s favourite talk. Always ask something that will lead to an open discussion about the conference and the industry at large. Talking about interests is memorable and is useful in building relationships.
3. Be an effective listener
When interacting with a guest, avoid talking about yourself. Instead, listen to what they have to say. The conversation should be 80% to 20%, meaning you listen most of the time. 20% is for asking questions and giving your opinion on the topic.
4. Have business cards
After a fruitful discussion, a guest may need your contact information to stay in touch. Therefore, you should bring plenty of business cards to avoid the embarrassment of writing your contact on a napkin. Besides, your business cards should also be of high-quality and memorable.
5. Have an exit strategy
Many guests in networking events are not in a rush. Therefore, you can spend hours talking to a handful of guests. Since your goal is to meet many people, you need to have exit cues. Your last impression is vital in building a relationship. Before you exit a conversation, compliment the guest, promise a follow-up, and give a handshake.
6. Be approachable for effective conference networking
Assume a friendly pose at the conference. That means you should avoid using your phone and tablet during the event. Conference networking is useful if you know both when and how to network. Therefore, smile as you walk around and be open. You will make it easier for guests to approach you.
7. Follow up
After a conference, reach out to the contacts you have. You can send a follow-up email highlighting the memorable moments of the conversation you had. Show your interest in keeping in touch. You can connect via social media or LinkedIn. Social networking makes it easier to continue with the conversation since people spend more time online.
The Don’ts of conference networking
One of the quickest ways to shut down a conversation is selling. Whether you are pitching your skills or businesses, selling during the conference is a bad idea. Strike a conversation with the hope of networking and future business.
2. Asking standard questions
Some questions are boring conversation starters for social networking. Asking a guest their name and where they reside is unlikely to spur a discussion.
3. Following people
Many attendees get up to follow a speaker at the end of a presentation. However, it does not leave a positive impression. Chances are they will hang around for lunch or dinner, and you can approach them. Also, do not follow guests if they are trying to exit a conversation.
4. Using your phone all the time
If you spend most of the time at a conference outside taking calls, you give the wrong impression. Most guests will deem you uninterested.
Networking is a skill that you need to perfect over time. With the above dos and don’ts, you stand a chance of building a long-lasting relationship after a conference.
Congrex Switzerland is an internationally operating agency delivering customised solutions. This encompasses the overall organisation of conferences and meetings, including the management of hotel rooms and the strategic consultancy. Annually Congrex Switzerland organises approximately 45 events with over 73’000 delegates. Amongst our clients are international associations, governmental organisations and corporations.