40% of people network more online than in-person. Does that sound like you? If so, networking at a conference may seem like a foreign concept.
Business conferences are perfect networking opportunities, however, so you shouldn't underestimate them. They can help you generate leads, meet new friends in your industry, and even find a new job if you're searching for one.
We're here to talk about how to network at a conference the right way. Read on to learn more.
Prepare Yourself Before the Conference
If you consider yourself fairly introverted, or if you're just nervous, prepare yourself before the day of the conference arrives. There are plenty of things you can do to help yourself feel more prepared.
Keep a notebook on hand. Before you go to the conference, write down any goals you have for the conference. They can be seminars you'd like to attend, people you'd like to meet, or questions you'd like to ask.
Practice your conversation skills and starters with someone you already know. Meeting new people can be awkward, but if you start with someone you're already comfortable with, you have a "practice run."
On the topic of practice runs, it's also helpful to talk to vendors first before you start talking to other attendees if you're feeling nervous. Vendors are paid to talk to you about their products or services, so they'll be able to carry the conversation while you get past your nerves.
It's also a good idea to create a schedule for yourself. Make a note of what events at the conference you want to attend and when they are. You'll have one less thing to worry about and you'll be able to surround yourself with people with your shared interests at all of these events.
Have Your Info on Hand
Make sure you have your contact information on hand at all times.
You can do this in several ways. The first is a good old-fashioned business card. You can list your number, your email address, and all of your social media information on the card and give it out to people you speak with.
You can also get futuristic and set up a QR code that leads directly to your personal site. This way, people can simply use their phones to access your information and connect with you online right away.
Keeping your info on hand like this makes it easy to continue conversations from networking events later on if you don't have enough time to talk at the conference or if you want to remain connected in the future.
When you attend a networking event, you always want to dress appropriately. This doesn't have to mean that you wear a suit and tie, but you should dress for the occasion.
"Business casual" is normally suitable for a conference, but always look for a dress code before you pack. You want to be comfortable but still professional.
When you dress professionally, other professionals will be more likely to take you seriously. This will make it far easier for you to build connections with them.
Keep a list of questions on hand for you to ask people. Asking questions is a great way to build connections at business conferences. People enjoy talking about themselves and their industries.
When you're in a seminar or listening to a guest speaker, take notes about what they're saying. Write down questions while you're taking notes so you can ask them later.
You can also ask questions during Q&A sessions. This will help you draw attention to yourself and people may choose to engage with you after the event is over.
If you're not the "type" of person who enjoys networking, gamify it. Turn it into a challenge. How many people do you want to network with on any given day of the conference?
You can make it a challenge to talk to at least five new people every day of the conference and to get contact information from at least one. You should also challenge yourself to give out your contact information to a set number of people every day.
Reward yourself at the end of the conference if you met your goal.
It's always easier to network if you have another person with you. Buddy up with a colleague while you meet new people at the conference.
You and your colleague can start by introducing each other to people you already know. This way, you're making connections right from the beginning. You may introduce each other to new clients, former coworkers, or potential new employers.
When you're both feeling comfortable, you can go off on your own. At first, however, it feels far better and safer to use the "buddy system."
Network Online First
Social media has made it easier than ever to network. Why not take some of your online connections into the real world?
Find people on sites like LinkedIn that will be attending the conference and contact them online first. Building relationships online is less stressful than doing it in person. You have more time to think about each interaction.
After connecting online, make plans to meet these people at the conference. This should get rid of some of the nerves and awkwardness associated with meeting someone new for the first time at a conference.
That's How to Network at a Conference
Learning how to network at a conference for the first time is tough. These tips will help you start making connections with ease so you can build your professional network.
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