5 Networking Tips for Your Next Conference
This post originally appeared on Ellevate Network.
Often it is a tough decision to decide whether to travel to a business or industry conference. You have to consider time away from your family and work and of course the cost of the conference and the travel. Wouldn’t it be great to know you will see an immediate ROI on these efforts? Here are 5 quick and easy tips to network efficiently at your next conference, and make sure you get the most bang for your buck.
1. Rethink your breaks.
Most people spend the time in between speakers running to the restroom or checking in with their office. But this is actually the best time to approach people to connect. Instead of using the breaks for random admin task, leave one of the sessions early to take care of other business and spend your breaks connecting with new folks instead. And if you’re really feeling slammed: Don’t attend every session. Select one session to skip altogether and spend that time in the common area, lounge, or lobby opening dialogue with other attendees. Luckily, you’re all at the same conference, so you have plenty of topics in common to bring up.
2. Take advantage of social media.
Before you get there, research whether there is a conference app. Be sure to download it and start using it to connect with people before you arrive at the conference. Keep it up during the conference—and afterwards. Make sure you’re utilizing any conference hashtags as well to maximize your visibility with other conference goers. And if there’s no hashtag, be sure to make a list of the speaker and company handles to use in your posts. If you really want to put in something extra and special, create your own hashtag for the event.
3. Never retreat.
A whole day of information is exhausting. You might also have work to catch up on at night when the day sessions are over. However, never skip the receptions and never go back to your room and order room service. You are missing out on prime networking opportunities! But you don’t need an event-sponsored meal to meet people. If there are no receptions or meals scheduled at night, simply sit at the hotel bar and order dinner there. I guarantee others from the conference will do the same and you will still be able to meet new people over a drink and some snacks. And these will likely be more relaxed, informal conversations, which are a welcome break if you find networking exhausting.
4. Stand out with speakers and contacts after the conference is over.
Instead of waiting in a group or line with many others after a talk, email the speakers afterwards and be specific about what you took away or enjoyed from their talk. While you’re at it, connect with them on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. All of these are excellent ways to get in front of big names in your field—just make sure to mention something particular from their talk to get their attention.
And, make sure you follow up with the contacts you’ve made! If you exchanged emails with someone, email them. Try to follow up right after the conference while you’re still fresh in their mind, and it’s even better if you have a concrete idea of how to work together.
5. Sit in the first row.
Most people avoid the first row and many will purposefully sit in the back, but the first row isn’t just for introverts. Even if it feels out of your comfort zone, stay upfront to maximize your opportunities to connect. You’ll probably find yourself next to other ambitious go-getters, who are excellent contacts to make. And if you go to the event with someone from your company, sit separately! That way you can each network with a different group of people in your row and pool your new contacts together at the end.
Jennifer Lynn Robinson is the CEO of Purposeful Networking. She conducts keynotes, workshops and seminars assisting companies, non-profits, universities and conferences to help ensure your networking is working for you. Jennifer is also the President of FemCity Philadelphia, a women’s business networking organization with 1800+ members. Jennifer is a contributor for The Huffington Post and has been highlighted in both local and national media. You can connect with her at @AreYouNetworked on Twitter or Instagram or at purposefulnetworking.com.