Did you know that 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking efforts?
If you’re not networking, you could be missing out on a lot of important job opportunities. You also could be missing out on a lot of opportunities to hire promising employees.
One of the best places to network is at professional conferences.
At these conferences, you are surrounded by hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people who work in the same field (or similar fields) as you, and you have plenty of opportunities to meet people who can help your business grow.
In order to reap the benefits of networking, you need to know how to network and feel comfortable doing it.
Read on to learn how to network at a conference. These ten tips will help even the shyest individuals make great professional connections.
Importance of Networking
Before we get into specific networking strategies, let’s start by covering the importance of networking. What makes it so great?
Whether you’re attending a conference for medical professionals, a business conference, or any other kind of conference, you can experience these great benefits from regular networking:
- Gain referrals
- Increase opportunities
- Gain connections in your industry and similar industries
- Get advice from other professionals
- Raise your profile and become better known in your industry
Networking at conferences and other events can also help you to feel more confident. If you’re a new entrepreneur, networking gives you plenty of opportunities to get confident selling yourself and your products.
How to Network at a Conference
There are a lot of different techniques you can utilize to improve your networking abilities. Start with these:
1. Ask the Right Questions
When you’re talking to people at conferences, make sure you’re asking them the right questions.
You don’t want to interrogate the other person, of course, but you also should have some conversation starters in mind before you approach them.
Some good questions to ask include:
- Where are you from?
- How long have been in this industry/with this company?
- Which sessions/speakers have you enjoyed the most?
- Are you attending any other conferences this year?
When you ask these questions, make sure you’re actively listening to the answers they give you. Conferences are busy places, and it’s easy to get distracted. Do your best to stay focused, though.
2. Stay in the Same Hotel
If possible, stay in the same hotel in which the conference is being held. This puts you right in the middle of the action.
It gives you more opportunities to run into people outside of the conference sessions and make connections in common areas like the hotel restaurant and hotel gym.
3. Reach Out Early
If you know a specific individual is attending the conference and you want to speak to them, reach out to them beforehand and ask if you can meet up for coffee or dinner.
Don’t leave it to chance — if you really want to meet with someone, make an effort to plan a get-together before you arrive at the conference.
4. Don’t Hover
It’s easy to get starstruck when you see someone you look up to or are inspired by at a professional conference. Don’t go into “helicopter mode,” though.
Hovering around the perimeter is not a good look, and it could cause the person you’re hoping to meet to feel a bit wary of you and your intentions.
5. Make Yourself Approachable
Remember, there are likely people at the conference who are interested in talking to you, too. Make sure that you’re appearing approachable to them.
Don’t bury your nose in your laptop or phone — be open, put a smile on your face, and make sure people know that they can come and talk to you.
6. Get on the List
At conferences, there are often exclusive dinners and other events outside of the general panels and speaker sessions.
Try to get yourself on the list for these events. They provide you with more opportunities to network in smaller, more intimate settings.
7. Bring Business Cards
Don’t show up to a conference without business cards.
Sure, you could share Twitter or Instagram handles, but there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned business card to ensure people know who you are and remember you once the conference has ended.
Include basic information on your business cards like your phone number and email address. You can also include your social media handles, too.
8. Keep it Brief
Everyone at conferences is busy, and most people don’t have a ton of time to talk.
Try to keep your conversations brief, especially if you’re trying to chat with someone in between panel sessions or if you’re talking to someone who has a line of people queuing up to meet them.
9. Get on the Planning Committee
A great way to get to know people who are attending a conference is to get yourself on the planning committee.
Reach out early to see if you can volunteer at a specific event, help to organize speakers, or moderate a panel.
If you do manage to secure a spot on the planning committee, be sure to read more here about finding great speakers that are sure to help fill seats.
10. Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Finally, don’t forget to follow up with the people you met once the conference is over.
Reach out via email, text, or on social media and let them know that you enjoyed meeting them and would like to connect again in the future.
Looking for More Professional Advice?
Attending your first conference can be a bit nerve-wracking.
Luckily, though, there are a lot of techniques you can utilize to improve your networking abilities and feel more at ease in a professional setting.
You now know how to network at a conference and make professional connections that can help you grow your business.
Do you need more help making a great impression at professional events? If so, we can help.
Check out the marketing and promotion section of our site today to learn more about the best ways to promote yourself and your company.