How to network effectively at a conference

Conference season is coming up fast, kicking off with next week’s Buy Yorkshire event at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. Are you a seasoned conference veteran who knows how to work the room? Or do you sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed by the size of an event? Here are a few tips for you to make the most of your conference experience.

1. Start networking before you even get to the conference. If there is an
attendee list available, check it for names of people and companies you would
like to connect with. Make yourself a wishlist of the key names as, let’s face
it, you’re not really going to make contact with a few thousand people. Check
their social media profiles, starting with LinkedIn and Twitter; start following
delegates on Twitter so you can see which events they will be attending. Many
people will be live tweeting during the conference so you will be able to
connect with them in real time.

2. If you’re attending a seminar and want to ask a question, take some time to
research the speakers’ social media. Finding out about their wider work will
help you to plan your questions beforehand; a unique question is more likely to
be selected.

3. Do you need to update your social media profiles? If you meet someone at the
conference and say you work for ‘X Co’ but your LinkedIn profile still says you
work for ‘Y Co’, what impression will that give a new potential contact when
they check you out after the conference? While you’re doing this, check to see
if your photo needs updating so people may actually recognise you at the
conference: ditch the photo with the ski goggles. My dilemma for next week is
whether to post a new photo or shave my newly acquired beard off!

4. More conferences are developing apps to enable you to get the best out of
your sessions; use these to see who is attending which seminars and link in with
other delegates beforehand. Likewise, check to see if there’s a LinkedIn group
or Facebook page where you can contribute to the discussion and connect.

5. Don’t forget your existing contacts. Conferences are a great opportunity for
strengthening existing relationships, not just for making new ones. Schedule
catch-ups over a coffee or beer; don’t just hope to “run into them”, which is
very unlikely at a large conference with dozens of seminars and thousands of
visitors. Remember, this is a great time for you to introduce your contacts to
each other. Be a connector at conferences; your contacts will then want to
connect you to theirs.

6. Also, it’s not just about the people you already know or feel you should
know: don’t forget to talk to everyone you come across. Some of the best
relationships start by chance, whether with the person you just happen to sit
next to at a seminar or are queuing with at the bar. Again, be a connector for
your new contact: who should they meet? If you introduce them to someone,
chances are they’ll do the same.

7. Following up after the conference is key. As well as following a new contact
on Twitter or LinkedIn, make a brief post about your conversation with them or
the great things they’re doing with their business. Promoting other people will
create value for them and builds your relationship.

8. You’ll probably find you can’t attend all the seminars you want to, so start
a discussion on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter to discuss the ideas that you came
across in the ones you attended; encourage others to do the same for the ones
they went to.

9. A key rule of making new connections is: don’t sell. We’ve all been given the
“elevator speech” within seconds of meeting someone for the first time. Have a
conversation with them; ask them questions about themselves first. (That’s not
to say a crisp description of who you are isn’t important; just don’t launch
into it straightaway).

10. Finally, put down your phone, BlackBerry, laptop. You’re at a conference to
meet real, live people so don’t spend breaks staring at a screen. Connect!

If you’re going to the Buy Yorkshire conference, I’ll be in the “Bar Mafia” each
evening so please come and say hello. You can find me on LinkedIn or on Twitter.

P.S. Don’t forget your business cards!

This post was first published on Network Marketing’s blog in April 2013

10th September 2014: New updated post will feature this great video from Gary Vernachuk.

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This entry was posted in LinkedIn, Networking, Relationships and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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