Conferences are an ideal opportunity to grow in your professional life. They give you the chance to rub shoulders with industry leaders, connect with potential employers, and even pitch innovative new ideas to those who can help you make those creative notions more than just daydreams. In order to network successfully at any event, you need to go in with a plan and some goals. Use these tips to prepare you before the day arrives.
- Arrive early. If you’re the awkward, introverted type, then being the first to show up can be uncomfortable, but it’s a great opportunity to connect with other guests before the crowds flood in. Make sure you have the route to conference venues planned out in advance so you get there ahead of time, then be ready to shake hands and introduce yourself to the other early birds. It’s a simple way to make quick, effortless connections.
- Know who’s coming. In your preparation for the conference, make a point of finding out who else will be attending. There may be specific speakers or attendees who you’re keen to connect with, particularly if they’re leaders in the area of expertise you’re most enthusiastic about. Do some background research so you know who they are and what they’re interested in to help the conversation flow more easily, and consider reaching out to them ahead of the conference to introduce yourself in advance so they’re expecting to meet you.
- Be open to conversation. When you find yourself in quiet moments between speakers with nobody to talk to, resist the urge to pull out your phone to bury yourself in your emails or social media feeds. Try to maintain body language that presents you as open and receptive to introductions and conversation. Without an approachable persona, you’re unlikely to network successfully.
- Spread yourself around. There may be one particular speaker or guest that you’re enthusiastic to meet and get to know, or maybe pitch a particular idea to, but it’s unwise to hover around that person for the entire conference. You’re more likely to come off as irritating than confident, and you could easily miss the opportunity to network with plenty of other attendees who may have lots to offer in terms of your career path. Work the room and make it a goal to meet plenty of different people throughout the conference.
- Don’t forget the business cards. When you’re meeting plenty of new people in one space of time, it’s difficult to keep track of everyone’s information, and you don’t want to stand typing new contacts into your phone all day. Bring a set of well-designed, professional business cards with you so you can give one to each person you meet. Make a point of following up with the attendees who gave you cards so you can continue your conversation outside of the event.
- Let others talk. If you’re nervous, it’s easy to get caught up in reciting your rehearsed introductions and forget to really hear what other people are saying. Calm down and let others do the talking, too. You may find yourself on the receiving end of an interesting idea, or building a connection with someone who could do wonders for your career thanks to your strong first impression.