As far as places to network are concerned, it just doesn’t get much better than an industry specific conference. With so many like-minded people in one place, you can easily extend your current network while consolidating some others that you may not have kept up with in recent months.
Do your homework
If it’s possible, look at the people who will be attending the conference in advance and research those you intend to approach and connect with. It’s common for conferences to publish those attending online beforehand so it’s easier than ever to figure out who’s going to be there and what they can offer you in terms of a business relationship.
This approach will also save you a great deal of time and energy on the day. Of course, you will end up introducing yourself to a number of people throughout the event, but you will want to focus the bulk of your attention on those people who you are certain you can forge a meaningful business connection with. To be really proactive, connect with delegates in advance and arrange to meet up at the conference.
Get there early
Prompt people won’t have an issue with this, but it always pays to get to a conference early. By getting there before the majority of the other guests you will settle quicker and will also be able to find your bearings faster. You are in a great position to chat to the first people that arrive, helping you settle into the conference and break the ice with that first networking opportunity.
As the room fills to capacity, you’ll already be relaxed and confident; two things that are essential for successful networking.
Following on from point one, always be selective with the people you engage with fully. Make sure you make the discussion about them and enquire about their background before discussing your own. Don’t be afraid to spend your time really establishing a relationship. One solid connection is better than 20 tentative conversations.
Set your goals
There’s no prize for talking to everyone at the event; in fact, you’ll probably just end up losing out if you attempt this. So why not give yourself a set number of people before you go that you’d like to connect with? Like we said before, it’s quality not quantity you are after so even if you come away with just one good lead, it may well be worth it.
It might sound a bit obvious to conference goers, but it is essential to take with you an ample amount of business cards. This is especially true if you are new to the conference game. Having something to hand out to new connections not only looks professional, it encourages others to give you theirs in return. Once the swap is complete, you have a direct line of communication.
Now all you have to do is choose that perfect shade for your business card; bone is always a classic.
Be brave, be confident and be yourself
The last and most important point on the list is always to be brave and confident, but, more importantly, be yourself. Don’t try and assume a persona that you think others will be impressed by; it’s just a recipe for disaster. You are the most relaxed when acting normal, so stick to it. As long as you are polite and friendly to everyone you meet, you are sure to get what you are after out of the day.