So what is your strategy to network with other leaders at your next conference?
Do you stand at the entrance, handing out business cards to everyone as they enter?
Do you pay thousands of dollars to advertise your social media content, hoping for followers?
Do you print your twitter handle on stickers and attach them to everything as you walk through the exhibit hall?
If you’re like most people, the thought of asking a stranger for help or reaching out to an author to ask questions begins a nervous feeling deep down in your gut. You know the value of networking but you find it easier said than done. Right now, I want to share with you a few tested tips to give you a successful networking experience at your next conference!
Know Your Goal.
Most people fail to network well because they don’t know what they are looking for in the first place. Are you looking for advice? Are you trying to land a book deal? Do you want to learn from someone further down the road then you? Are you just looking for someone to vent to? Start now by determining your goal.
If the presenter walked off the stage and asked you to go to dinner would you be prepared to ask meaningful questions? Do you know where you are currently in leadership and what you need to get to the next level? Take some time right now to write down a few questions. Prepare for the chance encounter. Know your schedule and when downtime will make networking natural. Print off a couple of business cards in case you need to cut a conversation short. And make sure you follow conference hashtags on social media to connect digitally as well!
Make every minute count. Whether you are waiting in line for coffee or walking through registration, look up from your phone and connect with the people around you. If this is intimidating then consider getting a wing man to help you out socially or write down a few ice breaker questions that can spark meaningful conversation. Maybe you create an opportunity by hosting a meal or offering to pick up the coffee tab in exchange for a person’s time. Remember to be generous.
Nothing frustrates a leader worse than wasting valuable time. If someone agrees to invest their time into you, do the work necessary to return the favor. Ask targeted questions and actually listen, not just waiting for your turn to talk. Give the leader your full attention and take notes when appropriate. This can be a reciprocal relationship but keep close attention to how much you are talking and the body language of the other person. Remember it’s better to leave the conversation with the other person desiring more.
When you turn and walk away can you clearly articulate your next step? Did the leader give you a deep wisdom that you need to take some time to digest? Did you set up a conference call or ask if you can connect on social media? A sure fire way to building a lasting relationship with someone is to follow up with them, expressing what you learned and how meeting them has impacted your life.
Networking doesn’t have to be complicated. You can easily connect with other leaders and form genuine relationships. Take time right now and do the work necessary to set yourself up for future success.