Attending an industry conference or networking event these days in a lesson is self-promotion and marketing skills. Conferences, tweet-ups, meet-ups or even business luncheons are rife with networking opportunities for those who come prepared to put their best foot forward and invest some time and energy in building relationships.
The following 7 tips are a great way to ensure at your next event that you leave not with just new knowledge but new connections and relationships to grow and cultivate into something bigger and more meaningful.
- Dust Off Your Business Cards How many have found yourselves scrambling for new business cards in the days (Hours? Minutes?) before heading to a conference/networking event? Always be ready with fresh, *proofread* business cards for any event that may come your way. How many cards do you need to bring? Usually enough to share with at least 2/3 of the attendees, is my general rule of thumb. If flying, don’t forget to pack extras in your carry-on just in case. You never know who you might meet on your flight.
- Know Conference/Event Sponsors So important because now you know which companies take this event seriously enough to invest in it. Research this roster of industry leaders and think of ways your business might be able to connect with them in a mutually beneficial way. Do a company search for them on LinkedIn. Follow their company, note if you share any connections with their employees on LinkedIn, and to do some competitive research to see what strengths and challenges they currently face.
- Do Your Homework Research the speaker roster. What is s/he speaking about and how did they become an authority on this topic? The world is full of speakers who provide slow death by PowerPoint (avoid these speakers at all costs) and others who look to engage and connect with their audience in a way that inspires novices to want to try something new and daring, and leaves industry veterans with a new way to look at something familiar.
- Leverage Twitter and LinkedIn More and more conferences and events are incorporating social media into their promotion mix. This is a huge benefit to attendees. Search for conference hashtags (e.g. #BlissdomCanada, #BWELA, #SMM2011, etc.) and follow these events for breaking news, updated speakers’ lists, confabs with other attendees, and generally getting pumped up for what a fantastic time everyone will all have at said event.
- Schedule Some 1-on1 Time With Your Superstar List It’s always wise to take online connections offline. This is how and when relationships really blossom. Invite those with whom you feel a kinship or connection with to a 15-minute meet-and-greet to learn more about each other, meet IRL (in real life) and discuss ways to enrich your connection and possibly do business together.
- Practice Your Elevator Pitch You should always be able to say what it is you do in 3 sentences or less. If you can’t—you need to work on your elevator pitch. Then you need to practice it so it doesn’t sound rehearsed but rather second nature. Ask yourself, if someone delivered your elevator pitch to you, would it sound credible and confident enough to warrant further conversations about doing business together?
- Make Sure To Say ‘Thank You’ After you’ve met with these wonderful leaders, industry colleagues and professionals and shared brain-waves, talked shop and made plans to connect again in-person or on social media, it would be a kind and memorable gesture to send a personal note. A sincere “Thank you for your time” or “It was a great to meet you, I look forward to getting to you know you and your business better” will go a long way to separating you from the pack. With this final gesture, you are sure to make yourself stand out and be noticed
What are some of your tips for smart networking? What are your favourite parts of a networking event? How could you improve your networking skills?