Conferences are not only great for keeping you up to speed on all the latest developments within your industry, but they also offer a fantastic way to network with peers, build new connections, and hear about exciting new career prospects. Read on for our top tips on making the most of your networking opportunities at your next conference.
- Stay where the conference is held
Staying in the heart of the action gives you a great chance to meet and network with other attendees, speakers, and exhibitors, in a more casual, incidental setting. If you find it intimidating to approach individuals at the conference itself, try putting yourself in situations where you can start the conversation more informally first. For example, get down to the breakfast buffet early, grab a drink at the hotel bar when you arrive, or take part in any mixer events that may be held at the hotel especially for conference attendees.
- Do your research and have a plan
Be focused in your networking strategy – look at the list of speakers, exhibitors, and attendees in advance and plan which individuals will be the most important for you to approach. Read about different companies and get a sense of which will be most interesting or beneficial to your business or career aspirations, then break it down into a shortlist of individuals who you would ideally like to engage with during the event. It might seem over the top, but it is important to stay focused and network smartly for it to be effective!
- Engage with the conference content
Use Twitter, LinkedIn, or other forms of social media to post thoughts and opinions on the conference topics of the day, or to register your opinion on the keynote speech you have just witnessed. If you do this effectively, your name may already be recognizable to the people you are planning to approach. It will also give you a good icebreaker when you first strike up a conversation with a new contact.
- Bring business cards
It may seem old-fashioned with so many social media channels to rely upon for contact information and making connections, but sharing your business card is still one of the best ways to introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. By all means include your social media information on the card, though – that way you have covered all possible routes of contact.
- Follow up after the event
It is crucial to follow up with your new contact after the conference itself. That way, they’ll remember who you are and will be much more likely to build a more permanent, meaningful professional relationship. Don’t be over keen, but don’t leave it too long after the event either. Try to be specific and mention a certain topic that you discussed, or ask them a question based on what you discovered from your conversation – this will make it more personal and give them a reason to reply to your message, too.
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