Entering a conference is simple, you walk in, register and find a seat. Finding someone to talk to is easy too, just bring someone along, but to actually leverage the potential power of networking? That’s scary.
Going to a conference is about finding new ideas, opportunities and meeting new people to help grow your career. Unfortunately, many of us don’t know how to properly use these chances to grow our professional network.
If there are key persons you’re hoping to meet at your next event for potential business cooperation, do some pre-meeting research online. Scope out these individuals’ LinkedIn profiles to learn the basics about them and look for common connections.
To help you get on your way, here are 5 ways to network at your next conference or corporate event.
1) Arrive early and leave late:
With our penchant for always coming late anyway, it can be a bit difficult for many to change this for one event.
Yet that is what you should be doing.
Arriving early means having a quiet and not so crowded area for you to get into the mood of introducing yourself to strangers. Talk to people at the coffee stand while you make coffee, make a bad joke about the muffins, and start off slowly.
This can inspire you to become braver as the room thickens with people.
Similarly, stay later than you’re used to.
Many people lose another important networking opportunity by running off right before or after the conference. This is a great time for you to continue a conversation with someone, or introduce yourself to speakers and others who have just gotten free.
2) Find the nearest coffee machine:
In between breaks or even the rest of the day before the next day’s sit down, look out for the nearest popular sitting place. During breaks, many are relaxed and hoping for a relaxed conversation, as well as either coffee and tea with maybe a Shisha.
Look at the location of the conference. Are there a lot of people sitting in the lobby café? If not, look around for nearby ahwas and Starbucks. Strike up a conversation while waiting in line, or find someone wearing a lanyard and/or something from the conference.
A chance meeting outside of a formal atmosphere, and to talk about anything other than the conference or event, allows for further networking later on at the event itself.
If there are international conference goers, try the hotel bar. Sit at the bar, and make short conversations while they wait for their drink, even if you’re just drinking Sprite.
3) Check those Hashtags!
Event hashtags aren’t there for show, they’re there to find conference goers see who’s there and where they are.
Look it up on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Find out where the people are going. This is a continuation of the last point.
You can find people sitting in empty rooms, upstairs on the roof lounge, maybe even making small prompt-to meetups at a nearby restaurant or café.
Take a deep breath and go have some fun as you network at a more relaxed atmosphere.
4) Stay at the hotel:
This is for those conferences that are out of the city, or even country, but something that can still be used during local events.
Late networking events, dinners and activities could easily happen at the same hotel as the conference. In most cases, many of the speakers and other attendees are also staying there.
This gives you prime opportunities to meet other conference goers during buffet dinners, breakfast, and even the gym.
For those living nearby? Stick around for a lunch or dinner at the hotel, and many hotels allow day use gym access.
5) Strengthen your pitch:
The second most common question after “who do you work for?” is “What do they/you do?”
It is important to practice what to say here. Whether you’re talking about your company’s services/products or what you bring to the office, it is important to be able to speak clearly without being nervous at this point.
Tighten your pitch before the conference, make sure you nail your first impression because it might be significant to the person in front of you.
Bonus: How to enter the networking dance
One of the hardest thing to do, and what most tips forget to talk about, is to start or join a conversation. Here are some basic non-verbal tips on how to start and join any conversation at your next conference.
1,2,3 and here we go
People group into singles (1), doubles (2) and more. Here are some small tips to help you get started.
Always approach single people first, they’re just like you and are unsure of how to start networking with others. They will be the most welcoming and easiest to start with, as they are eager to meet new people too.
A simple introduction here can get the ball rolling.
For the doubles, look for people talking in a V shape (their bodies pointed outwards), these people are having an open conversation and wouldn’t mind more company.
People who have their bodies directly in front of each other means a closed and possibly intense conversation, avoid those until they open up.
Joining a group of people is the same thing. Here, look for groups standing in a U shape, again indicating an opportunity for others to join in.
Those in an O, or closed, shape should be avoided as they are some of the hardest to join.
A conference can be so much more than learning from those speaking on stage, but can be a significant opportunity to meet others who can help you grow yourself or your business.
Appreciate the next time you go to one, you may meet a new business partner, a person who may recommend you for a job or even a brand-new job.
Let us know if any of these tips help you out in the comments below, or on our Facebook.