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11 Top Tips For Networking Success At Your Next Conference

11 Top Tips For Networking Success At Your Next Conference

Conferences and association meetings are an important investment of your time. You are there to learn, but it's also a key opportunity to network. Here are 11 tips you can use to improve your networking at your next conference, convention or meeting.

1. Have a plan

Know in advance whom you want to meet (directly or the type of people), and which speakers you want to hear. Do not leave your schedule to chance or you may miss out on things that are your true priority.  Set up appointments in advance if you know people will be present with whom you want to connect.

2. Bring plenty of business cards

In today’s digital world some argue against the importance of business cards when networking in person. But having a card is not for you, it is for the other person. Some people forget names quickly and asking for a card helps them recall you later. Telling someone “Google Me” is making them work to keep in touch. Additionally we don’t all use the same technologies, so using BUMP (or another digital tool) assumes we all adopt the same technologies. Not carrying business cards can be selfish, and selfish is so last year!

3. Focus on meeting the other attendees, not just the "Stars"

While meeting the speakers and industry gurus is cool, you are one of the many who may come up to them and shove a card in their hands. Instead, place your focus on meeting other people in attendance at the event. Find your peers and make them your "stars", as they are the ones you will grow up with in the business.

4. Talk to the people sitting next to you

This should go without saying, but very often people get side-tracked and do not make the effort when networking at conferences. When you walk into a session, take the time before the presentation begins to say hello to the people seated around you. I call this the "power of hello". Once you have said something as simple as "hello", it will be easier to talk with them later in the conference when see them again.

5. Ask questions of people you meet

Never lead with your "elevator pitch". People are more interested in themselves than they are in you, so ask them questions to help them get to talking first. There is plenty of time to tell them about your business.

6. Put your technology away

Do not run to your iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, tablet, or laptop at every break. When you are working on electronics you send the message that you are unapproachable because you are busy. Utilize the time on breaks to converse with others. Look around and smile rather than texting like crazy. The hallway conversations are legendary for providing the best value of all at conferences. Do not miss out because you are tweeting!

7. Do not automatically send a LinkedIn or Facebook request

Too often people immediately send social networking link requests to people they just met. However, different people have different policies about whom they link with. If they believe in only connecting with those whom they have established relationships, you make it awkward if you send them a link too early (which they then ignore). Best is to ask people if they would welcome such a link at this time. Be respectful of the fact that they might use social networking differently than you do. Immediately following them on Twitter is okay, as Twitter does not require a mutual connection acceptance.

8. Introduce others

When you meet cool people, be the conduit that connects them with others who might be beneficial to them. This includes others at the conference, as well as people you might know back home. If you ask the right types of questions, you will easily spot connections that can help others. Don't ever worry about "what's in it for me", but instead just be the person who helps others at every turn. You will, over time, develop the reputation as one who assists others .... and then you will find more people will help you, too.

9. Be true to yourself

If you are a bit more on the introverted side of things, be honest that a whole three days of socializing will drain your energy. Take some time for yourself to recharge. Do not skip out on major parts of the events, but find the time you need to get focused.

If you are more outgoing, do not overdo it. Sometimes the late nights and free drinks can seem fun at the time, but can also leave you wiped out the next day. Enjoy yourself, but realize that few of us can stay out until 3 AM and be wide-eyed for the 7:30 breakfast.

10. Follow up

If you meet interesting people and you never follow up, it makes no difference. Own the follow-up after you meet people and send them an email (or better yet, a handwritten note) telling them how much you enjoyed talking with them, and plan for future discussions. Creating ongoing and meaningful connections with others in the industry will bring you more success.

11. Do more than others expect from you

Bring more to a new relationship than the other person expects and they will always remember you as someone who is a giver. As you get to know people make it a priority to understand what they need to succeed. Sometimes you or someone in your network is they key to the other person achieving their goals. Find ways to help. Those who give always get more down the line.

About Thom Singer

Thom Singer is an expert in social networking and developing a personal brand. He has worked in sales and marketing capacities at several Fortune 100 companies and regularly speaks to corporate audiences, law firms and professional organizations. He has written seven books on the power of business relationships and is a respected Keynote speaker.

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