12 Tips to Network at a Conference like a Pro
Conferences cost money and take time. That’s why it’s important to make the most of your time at one, so you can expand your network, have fun, and grow your career!
If you feel uncomfortable with networking, you’re not alone! Lots of people dread it or wonder if they’re doing it right. Instead of only meeting people haphazardly near the coffee station, a little strategic effort can make networking easier and more enjoyable!
- At conference sessions, start a conversation with a person sitting near you. Arriving a little early will give you more time to have a chat with someone nearby.
- Research 5-10 key people you want to meet ahead of time. This is our #1 tip for making the best use of your time. You could schedule meetings beforehand to take place at the conference or approach them at the conference with a friendly conversational opener (see #3).
- For each key person you want to meet, read their bio and learn what they like to do. Ask them questions about something not work related. “I hear you like golf…where do you like to play?” “I love the work you’re doing in your company. Sounds like you work hard. What do you love to do on the weekends?”
- Wear something a little different. This could be a crazy tie, brightly patterned socks, or an unusual piece of jewelry. This gives people something to ask you about.
- Make reservations at a restaurant. After you get into a good conversation with someone, ask them if they’d like to join you in your group dinner reservation. Many folks don’t make dinner reservations in advance and may appreciate being included in a group.
- Request to be a speaker. If it’s too late, consider asking conference organizers if any speaking spots have opened up.
- Look for happy hours and other special events hosted by sponsors, groups you like, or the conference organizers. These are excellent places to network.
- Carry business cards with you. When you’re handed a business card, take a moment to read and admire it before putting it away. Ask a question about something on the card if one comes to you.
- If you’re a runner, find other runners and meet up for exercise.
- Be curious about others. Ask questions.
- Connect with conference goers on Twitter with the hashtag #SFPE2017.
- Start connecting with people before you go. If you see people mention their attendance on LinkedIn or Twitter, you can read their content or updates in advance. Like and comment on their content so they are familiar with you before the conference starts.