Business conferences are natural venues for networking because they bring industry players together in a non-threatening environment.
Yet some business owners fail to exploit the full networking potential of business conferences because they go into the conference with the wrong strategy and mindset.
Anyone can flip a business conference into a networking pay day by incorporating a few key elements into their conference attendance strategy. Follow these tips and you'll quickly transform yourself into a networking pro:
- Mentally prepare to circulate. When you attend a conference, you need to mentally prepare yourself to circulate. Sounds obvious, right? But from a networking perspective, most conferences are flops because attendees approach it as a vacation or a team-building experience rather than a networking opportunity.
- Arrive early. You'll lose valuable networking time if you arrive late to workshops and plenary sessions. Get there early and introduce yourself to your neighbors. You don't have to be a great conversationalist to use conference topics as a launching pad for discussion.
- Sit with strangers. At meals and break times, your first instinct is to sit with people you know. But if you're networking, that's the wrong move. The most successful business conference networkers thrive on opportunities to converse with strangers over a meal or a cup of coffee.
- Strategically distribute business cards. People who randomly hand out business cards at conferences don't take networking seriously. A business card isn't a substitute for the hard work of networking – it's a tool that can be strategically employed to initiate legitimate relationships with new business contacts.
- Write it down. At the end of each day, write down names and other information in a small notebook. Even seemingly inconsequential details can be useful for follow-up, but you won't remember them unless you write them down before you leave the conference.
- Identify networking targets. As the conference winds down, begin to identify any networking targets you haven't contacted yet. There is no shame in walking up to someone and introducing yourself – even if you have sat in the same conference room all week.