How to Successfully Network at a Conference
I’m getting excited for the FinCon Expo, which takes place later in September. While I don’t worry too much about networking at FinCon (confession: I go to see people I only get to hang with once a year), there are other conferences I attend that require me to bring my networking game.
Conferences are great places to meet new people in your industry, learn about the latest developments, and cement business relationships. If you are hitting the road soon, here are some tips that can help you successfully network at a conference:
Know Before You Go
Before you head to the conference, figure out who you want to approach. Do you have a list of people you want to network with? Do you know what you hope to accomplish?
Figure out your goals for this conference. Do you hope to learn something new? Do you want to make a connection with someone specific? Are you looking for a business partner?
Understanding your goals can help you be more effective when you network at a conference. Be aware of who will be there, and know why you want to meet some of the other attendees. Whether you want to connect with a specific brand in the expo hall, whether you are looking for a marketing relationship, or whether you just hope to form a mastermind group, know before you go so that you can network with a purpose.
Know What You Offer
Networking isn’t about taking all the time. You need to offer something as well. Do you know what you offer? Can you provide value? Most relationships need to be mutually beneficial to work, whether you are in a personal relationship or a business relationship. Take the time to evaluate your strengths so that you have an idea of what you can bring to the table. You’ll get more out of networking if you give just as much as you take.
Bring Something Memorable
If you want to network at a conference with any sort of success, you need to be memorable in some way. This can be something as simple as providing a unique business card that stands out. It can also be more involved, like bringing branded merch that others can use. You can also consider wining and dining a potential business partner. Offer to buy someone a drink while you network, and you might get further than you thought. Whether you pass out flash drives or your business card has a cool gimmick (my new cards are equipped with NFC technology so that I can share digital cards with a tap), it helps to stand out when you network at a conference.
Work with Someone Else
As an introvert, networking can be a challenge for me. Sometimes, I find a conference buddy or join a large group in order to be a little more comfortable with the networking experience. I also like to join networking events, like speed networking or games. It seems cheesy, but these ice-breaker events can help me get out of my shell because we’re all doing it. These events also sometimes offer simple topics for conversation so I don’t have to try to come up with the small talk.
A conference can be a great place to take your business to the next level, but you have to come prepared to network effectively.