Monday, June 10, 2013

Conference Networking…Where to Start?

Conferences are a fantastic opportunity for networking within your industry and making connections that will help you reach your business goals. But, networking at conferences can be daunting, especially if you don’t know where to start.
Just like exhibiting at a trade show, it is important to have a goal in mind when networking at a conference. Ask yourself: what do I hope to achieve in attending this conference? What sort of connections am I trying to make? Having a goal in mind will focus your networking and enable you to make the connections that will help you.

The questions you ask yourself are important, but those you ask while networking at the conference are even more essential. Steer away from yes or no questions, as those questions shut down rather than foster conversation. Instead, ask perceptive or in-depth questions, such as “What made you chose this business?” and “What challenges did you face early on?” Questions that show a genuine interest in the other attendee and their work will help you to stand out from the “What do you do?” crowd.

Researching potential connections in advance can also help you stand out from the crowd. Many conferences include lists of exhibitors and attending companies on their website. Researching these companies can help prepare you for conversation with their representatives and allow you to form some questions in advance. Before the conference, you can even reach out to exhibitors you are interested in visiting at the conference to ease the introduction.

Following up after the conference is equally as important as making connections onsite. Be sure to follow up via email or social media promptly to maintain your connections. Show people that they made an impression on you and that you are interested in continuing the conversation and they will reciprocate.
Networking can be intimidating, especially at a large event. But with a little planning, you’re sure to make the connections you need to expand your business!

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