The Art of Conference Networking

This post is by the courtesy of Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon. Even though their article on “Rish Management” magazine was in 1995, I think it’s still very true until now. And I wish I could know them earlier to make use the most out of conferences that I attended during my undergraduate time. However, this can be applicable to any other professional or business conferences as well

What people actually gain from a conference depends on the tactics they use to get the most out of the experience. People go to conventions for information, inspiration and interaction. Event planners can almost guarantee that attendees will get the first two items on the list from the speakers and the sessions. But it is much harder for the planners to make sure that attendees make contact with others on more than a superficial level.

Apart from booking flights and accommodation for your trip, people tend to spend less time thinking about how to get the most out of meeting new people. Try to analyze your situation, your needs; Take note of questions or problems your want to solve; or, think of jobs you want to investigate; speakers you want to meet, etc.

Coming to the conferences, you may want to bring stories or current issues of your company or organization and share with others. First, it means you always have something to talk about. Second, you want to get some insights from the responses, whether other people would solve your issues with the same strategy, or you may come up with new approaches after the talks.

The best networkers are the one that call people before the conference and make arrangements to have breakfast or a drink. Groups of 4 to 6 provide the most conversational possibilities, so remember to include others in your meetings. Invite a speaker to join you. Consult your agenda to remind yourself of what you want to find out at these meetings

Make a list of things you can give to other. Be ready to tell people about useful or interesting books, opportunities you’re aware of, trends you discovered or solutions you have developed to any challenge in your work or your life.

If you’re a newcomer at the conference, don’t be intimidated at seeing old-timers gravitating toward each other. Don’t just attend, get involved. Volunteer for a committee, serve on a task force or help out at the registration desk.

If you’re attending the conference at a city that you’ve never been, always check out the city beforehand. Leaf through travel magazines, and ask the local convention and tourism bureau to send you information.

When you arrive at the conference, choose your program carefully. Proactively select sessions to attend based on your agenda. Focus on the knowledge you require, the skills you would like to develop and the people you want and need to meet. Do, however, pick a ‘wild card session’ – one that you can see no earthly use for at the moment. Inevitably, this session will open new doors for you. Prepare for the future by challenging yourself to explore the unknown.

Be visible during the conference by actively participating in sections. When asking a question, stand up and speak loudly, giving your name and company. Your questions will draw others to you. Seek out other people who have asked questions and follow up with them. Also, introduce yourself to speakers before the sessions. They are eager to know their audiences and the issues that confront them.

Make time for informal networking. Sometimes, the conversation you have in the hall or over a cup of coffee is a more valuable use of your time.

. That’s why you collected all those business cards. Drop a note to say Hi, and look for ways to contribute to your contact’s success, such as sending the person an article that expands on an issue you discussed. Keep in touch during the year. Create a roster of valued contacts within your association: people can give you advice, provide access to information and those who can become your ‘safety network’ if you suddenly find yourself in the job market.

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