I’m taking care of a few last-minute housekeeping items today as I prepare to head to Lima, Ohio in a couple of hours, to attend a social media conference. I’m so excited to learn some new tricks for me and my clients, as well as make some great new connections.
There’s much less preparation required for traveling to a conference as an attendee than when traveling as an exhibitor. There’s no need for me to remember all the components for my booth, there’s a bit less pressure about my wardrobe, and there are generally less logistics to be concerned with. However, I am preparing to be on top of my networking game!
So, what better time than now for me to share my best conference networking tips with ya’ll?
Here we go. My top seven conference networking tips:
- Book onsite accommodations. If the event is happening in a hotel, try to book a room there so you can make the most of your time. You may be able to make further connections at the hotel restaurant after sessions are over, and you’ll save on commute time. If this isn’t possible, try to get a room as close to the venue as possible. The hotel where I’ll be staying is a hop, skip and a jump through the parking lot to the venue. Plus, all of the speakers are staying there too.
- One of the first things you should do when you register for the event is find out what hashtags are being used and follow them. But don’t only follow them … contribute, too! Take part in the conversation, tweet using the conference hashtag and see how many more connections you’ll make. The hashtag for this particular conference is #SMWL17. If you do a search during the next three days, you will hopefully see how much fun we are all having!
- Know who else will be there. I’ve already taken a good look at the speaker list for this conference, so I know exactly who I want to connect with. Sometimes conferences also publish a list of attendees. If you have access to such a thing, take a look and do your homework about who you want to introduce yourself to. This will help you maximize your time at the event. But don’t let this block you from making other valuable connections, too. Just let it be a guide.
- Show interest. Really try to make a meaningful connection with each person you meet. If you have a high potential contact on your hands, do your best to leave an impression with them. Find out all you can about what they do. Ask them questions about their business, their challenges … if you can, share a great tip with them, or give them a referral to a provider who may be able to help them overcome a problem. Just don’t start trying to sell them! Give this person your full attention and keep it about them. No scouring the room or checking your phone while you’re talking to them! Showing keen interest goes a long way because it doesn’t happen that often anymore!
- Mind your hands. Don’t wait until the happy hour networking mixer to eat. Why? Because if you’re balancing a drink and a plate of food (and a purse), how are you going to shake someone’s hand or reach for a business card? Also, if your mouth is full, it’s very awkward to speak to new contacts. Have a bite to eat before you attend a networking event, and if you do have to eat at the mixer, try to nibble here and there, rather than carrying around a plate of meatballs.
- Ask thoughtful questions. If you’re in a session or workshop, don’t be a wall flower! You have no idea who else is in the room you may impress; so raise that hand and ask good, thoughtful questions to show you’re interested (and intelligent).
- Follow up. Always, always, always follow up with the people you meet. Whether it’s emailing session leaders and thanking them for their time, contacting new friends via social media, or sending a personal note in the mail. Waste no time reminding people that they met you and how you can help them. If you can, try to remember something personal about them, or something you discussed so you can show them you really did listen and pay attention! And if someone has given you their business card and expressed an interest in your services … make sure you add them to your follow-up schedule and touch base within 24 hours after returning home. [Thursday’s blog post will have some great tips about follow-up!]
Do you have any other tips you’d like to share about conference networking? Please share them in the comments so we can all benefit.
Also published on Medium.