“Your network is your net worth.”
It is essential to know how to network effectively at a business conference and follow up after. Big conferences such as Collision with thousands of high profile attendees could be overwhelming for some. But if you have the right strategy, you can maximize the benefits from attending the conference.
To help you get the most out of the conferences and business meetings you attend, follow these 12 networking and follow-up tips:
- Learning and first things first
First remember that your No1 purpose of attending a business conference is to learn, and get new ideas. Networking comes next, not before.
Conferences tend to move at the “speed of social” these days. That is to say, people are moving from one conversation, session, or event to another, quickly. It’s easy to get lost in the flow of things. Identify clear objectives of sessions to attend, who you hope to meet, and what you want to take away, prior to the event.
- Set specific goals and objectives
Be laser focused about your goals. Identify clear objectives of sessions to attend, who you hope to meet, and what you want to take away, prior to the event.
Conferences and conversations tend to move at the “speed of social” and you can easily get lost in the flow of things if you are not strategic.
- Are you prepared?
If there are specific attendees, vendors or speakers you hope to meet and talk to, do your research and prepare well ahead of time. Read their latest book, blog posts, etc, and search for the latest news on their company.
Connect with them on Twitter and follow/engage in conversations up to, and while at the conference. Have your initial questions or a comment prepared ahead of time.
- Send an email or tweet during and after the event
After a great conversation with an exhibitor, speaker or attendee, send an email or tweet right away and get the connection on a great start.
This is an important tip on how to network effectively at big conferences.
- Can you Kiss?
Don’t rush your conversations because you are trying to meet as many people as possible. But at the same time, try to keep your conversations short and sweet (KISS)
- Be Approachable
Don’t spend all your time outside of conference sessions using your phone, laptop or tablet. By circulating and looking open and engaged, you’ll make it more likely that someone else, looking for someone to talk to, will approach you. Knowing “when” to network is just as import and as “how to network”.
Also remember to have your business card handy. Digital cards are being more widely used these days.
- Focus on quality over quantity
It’s tempting to put a lot of pressure on yourself to approach everybody, but remember the old adage about focusing on quality over quantity really applies here. Don’t expect to meet everyone. Get the most out of the few you meet.
Build meaningful relationships at conferences by targeting a few key contacts and having multiple non-superficial interactions with each of those contacts. Don’t try to spread yourself too thin and network with everyone or you’ll be memorable to no one
- Don’t be a fan seeker
While its great to meet the speakers, authors and other VIP’s at a conference, don’t be fixated and spend your entire time trying to connect with them.
Instead, spend your time listening, learning and connecting with others that have similar interests and objectives as you. Your time at the conference will be a much more worthwhile investment.
- Create your own schedule
Know who is speaking where and when in relation to your interests and conference objectives. You can’t be everywhere at once.
You can use the conference App to create your schedule or do it in the good old-fashioned notebook.
- Use social media and LinkedIn
Tweet or post about the conference while you’re there. Tag people you’ve met, or hope to meet, and make complimentary, positive comments about their session, session topic, panels and the conference itself. Always use the conference #hashtag.
Utilize LinkedIn especially. it’s critical to connect on LinkedIn within 24-hours of meeting in person and following up once you’re back home or in the office.
- Listen more than you talk
Networking is about building a relationship—which means it isn’t just an opportunity for you to talk all about yourself. It’s great when you move the focus away from you to the person you’re speaking to, and simply listen.
It’s pure magic how much more interested other people become in you and your business when you appear genuinely interested in them.
- The day after the Conference
You should have a number of business cards from people you’ve met at the conference. Send an e-mail or phone, summarizing an interesting point from the conversation and suggest whatever follow-up is appropriate (quick zoom meeting, coffee/lunch, or simply “let’s keep in touch”).
When you have the opportunity to attend a conference like Collision, The Money Show or World Business, you have the full attention of thousands of business leaders. Networking effectively at such big business conferences is only complete when you follow up properly.