Guest post by Claudia Vandermilt
For many professionals, networking at a business conference can be daunting. Still, it’s often necessary and can be beneficial when done properly. Having an outgoing personality helps, though not everyone is naturally outgoing.
Focusing your energy on meeting the right people and making an impression are essential strategies, though both require practice. By following proven methods, you’ll be able to apply techniques to your effective networking tactics.
Conferences attract hundreds, if not thousands, of attendees. To stand out you’ll need to focus on what you’re trying to accomplish. Define your goal and stick to it, you’ll immediately narrow your focus to the most important areas and people to target.
Here are five key tips to networking at a business conference:
- 1. Build Your Social Network
Talk to others; taking a genuine interest in people you come into contact with is the first step in building your network of friends and associates. Ask others questions about themselves, their jobs, hobbies and families.
Get in touch with old acquaintances, distant relatives and people with whom you went to school. This is a good exercise in reaching out and strengthening your existing connections.
The key is to smile and take a keen interest in other people’s lives.
- 2. Pay Attention to Details
Get to know people personally as well as professionally. While your goal may be to talk business, taking a few minutes to discover hobbies and other significant details can be beneficial by strengthening an otherwise standard business relationship.
Once you’ve learned a few details, write them down. You want to remember what you’ve learned. You never know when you or someone you know will benefit from the contacts you’ve made and the relationships you’re building.
- 3. Find the Extroverts
Once you start networking, you’ll come across people who have been networking experts; individuals who have been networking for a very long time and seem to know everybody. Get to know these extroverted professionals. They’ll introduce you to others who share your interests or goals.
- 4. Be Generous
Networking is a two-way street. While you’re making connections that can help you, consider how you can help others. Think of contacts you have that may benefit those you’re networking with, listen, and compliment and be sincere.
Networking is about more than finding job opportunities; you may meet entrepreneurs interested in an idea you’re developing, business connections to help with a future project or professionals who can recommend services.
It’s important to remember you’re establishing good relations with people and opening channels for mutual benefit.
- 5. Follow Up
People hand out business cards for a reason. Maintain your address database and stay in touch with those you’ve met. Note everyone’s birthday and send a “Happy Birthday” email. Or, use current events as a reason to make contact. For example, touch base if they’ve had inclement weather in their area or forward a relevant, interesting article.
Of course, a little preparation goes a long way. Before the conference, research keynote speakers and others who will be in attendance. Set goals and identify those that you’d like to meet. Plus, you can always establish connections via social networking websites beforehand. With these simple tips, you’ll be armed with the knowledge and techniques to make networking work in your favor.
Claudia Vandermilt works in conjunction with Villanova University and University Alliance to promote professional training materials. She’s currently enrolled in Mastering Organizational Effectiveness through Villanova because there’s little else more challenging than remaining organized.
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