Working the Room—7 Networking Tips for Your Next Conference
We’ve all been through those excruciating first few minutes at a cocktail party where everyone’s a stranger. No cluster of friendly faces to join, no appetizer plate to look busy with, and no other singular sap looking for a small talk buddy. (Shudder). While networking doesn’t come naturally to most, you can learn to work the room so that every conference and cocktail party is a bona fide business opportunity. Check out our favorite conference networking tips in the following list.
Before attending your next professional conference, study the event materials. Not only should you attend the sessions most relevant to your business’s needs, you should also seek out talks that will attract the kind of people you want to meet. For example, if your printing company has a niche business for restaurants, attending a talk related to the service industry will serve you well.
Warm Up & Cool Down with Social Media
Besides the prep work outlined above, conference networking should begin and end with social media. Prepare for the people you meet to give you a once over on your Facebook or LinkedIn profile. Add a professional, current picture so that connections will recognize your social media profile after the event. And be sure to edit your LinkedIn public URL with your first and last name to help new acquaintances find you on search engines.
Search for your hopeful connections’ social media output so you can learn more about them and start a conversation more easily. Telling your new acquaintance that you enjoyed their latest blog post will flatter them and spark further discussion.
After the conference, follow connections on Twitter. You can also help promote their business by tweeting about your meeting—they will usually return the favor if they’re up on Twitter etiquette. On Facebook, like their businesses and write on their wall. If you took any pictures at the conference, send a friend request to conference connections and ask if you can tag them.
At the actual conference, be sure to follow-up with any connections you made at previous events. But don’t count on a coincidental reunion. Schedule time for lunch or a drink so that you don’t risk missing them. It’s important to keep in touch with the people who are already in your network—otherwise you may burn bridges instead of building them.
Go Party. For Real!
Your event registration likely includes pre-conference gatherings like cocktail parties or meet-and-greets. These get-togethers are prime networking opportunities, so take advantage.
At every conference seminar you attend, arrive early. You want time to strike up a conversation with people sitting near you. If you’re stumped for icebreakers, focus on the content of the upcoming session—it’s a good way to learn more about their business and what interests them. Have your business cards at the ready.
Don’t take breaks at break time—instead, consider time in between sessions as more networking opportunities. Strike up a conversation with someone at the refreshments table rather than checking your email or listening to voicemail. This is an especially effective networking technique as the PDA-free attendees on break may be trying to network, too.
Finally, take note of what you discussed when you meet someone new at a conference. Better yet, jot it down on the back of their business card if you got one. Mentioning some detail of your conversation later will jog their memory at future meetings.
Ready to expand your network by working the room like a pro? Test your skills at our upcoming Printing Hub 2012 conference (we’re even hosting a Nets and Networking reception Monday night). And if you can’t make it, stay tuned for live coverage.
How do you get the most out of the conferences you attend?