Tips for “Networking” at a Conference

Any of you who read my blog (loyal in my extended blogging absence!) know that the word “networking” is a little dirty to me because the intentions aren’t always as pure as “connecting”. However, I’m asked all the time how I approach networking at conferences. Here are some pointers I share:

  • Do your research beforehand. If attendee lists (either specific names or organizations) are available, make sure you know background for ‘important’ people in the room, and ask colleagues/netsuite about existing relationships.
  • Dont spew information. Instead, ask people questions about themselves and their work.
  • Don’t make people feel like you’re trying to sell them something. Instead, listen to what’s on their mind and respond to that.
  • The best conversations are those that aren’t about work at all. Get to know people to really build a relationship. That often means showing a little of your personality; you can maintain privacy, but think about a few topics you could be comfortable talking about outside of work and don’t be afraid to do that.
  • Be careful what you say about other people – you never know who knows who.
  • The best networking often happens during meals and evening activities, so pace your energy levels to make those times count.
  • Write something to jog your memory on the back of people’s business cards as is helpful.
  • Make note of what article or website(s) would be helpful to send to someone in followup to your conversation, and then follow up! Within a week is usually a good call, but up to two is fine.

And, in doing all of this, focus still on connecting and not having a transactional interaction!

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