Industry conferences can be fantastic career opportunities. Not only can they help you progress in your current job, you can use them to develop a network that you can take with you anywhere. The relationships you build at a conference may lead you to business opportunities, new jobs, or better roles with your current employer. To succeed at networking at your next conference, keep the following tips in mind.
– Pick people to meet. Depending on the size of the conference, there could be hundreds of attendees to network with, on top of the speakers highlighted on the schedule. If you can, find out who’s coming and where they work. Make a list of people you want to meet, and then develop that list to prepare for each encounter. Write down why meeting them would benefit you, what benefits you can offer them, three things to say to them, and their schedule if you can find it. Doing so will help you make a meaningful connection when you run into them.
– Listen more than you speak. Conference attendees often complain that networking feels mechanical or that everyone they talk to is selling something. Instead of promoting yourself, use conversations to build durable connections by listening actively to the person in front of you. Be patient as well. Not every conversation will lead to a great opportunity, and even those that do may not pay off for a long time.
– Pay attention to group body language. One of the most difficult parts of networking at conferences is knowing when it is and isn’t appropriate to join a conversation. To get a good idea, look at the way people stand in relation to one another. People standing very close together or in a closed shape like a triangle are difficult to approach. Instead, look for small groups in open formations.
– Arrive early. You may be able to overcome shyness by being one of the first people to arrive at a networking event. In the first few minutes, groups have yet to form and crowds tend to be smaller. If you get off to a good start, you may find your confidence growing as the day progresses.