From Collector: How to Network at Conferences

7/3/2017 11:00 AM

Even introverts can make lasting connections at industry events—with the right preparation.

NewsCollector Magazine

Social media has changed the way we interact with friends and colleagues, but nothing can replace the deeper connection you get from a face-to-face conversation. After all, a smiling emoji just isn’t the same as an actual human’s smile. While in-person conversations are one of the most powerful ways to network, if you’re not often at professional gatherings they can seem overwhelming, Collector magazine editor Anne Rosso May reports in the July issue. The key is to develop your networking strategy before you even leave the house. Here are some tips to get the conversations rolling.

Do Your Homework

Take a look at the information posted on the event website and download the conference’s mobile app, which among other things often includes a full attendee and exhibitor roster so you can identify who you want to meet at the event.

Make Conversations Count

Tempted to stare at your phone rather than stand awkwardly in a room full of strangers? Don’t be. Instead, put your phone on silent, smile and look for someone who is in a similar position: either another person standing alone or small groups of people who appear to be having a casual, light conversation.

“When engaging in networking conversations, remember the 80/20 rule: Listen 80 percent of the time, ask questions 10 percent of the time and share your opinion 10 percent of the time,” said Sharon Schweitzer, founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. “Sound unfair? No, your counterpart will love everything they hear— themselves! Participate as an active listener.”

Introverts, Be Kind to Yourself

Networking at a conference where you are also taking in lots of new information can easily lead to burnout. Consider modifying your expectations to focus on making one to three meaningful connections instead of handing out a box of business cards.

If you start to feel overwhelmed, take a quick walk outside or retreat to your hotel room for 15 minutes to decompress before returning to the event. Remember that everyone at the conference is there for the same reason: To learn and make industry connections.

Follow Up with New Contacts

The whole point of networking is to build relationships that can benefit both parties down the road, so after the event wraps up don’t let those business cards languish in the bottom of your bag.

Try to send a follow-up email to all promising contacts within a few days. In those emails, Schweitzer recommends referencing how you met, in case the person doesn’t immediately remember. For example, you could say: “It was a pleasure meeting you at the golf tournament last week.”

You could also mention a valuable takeaway you got from the conference or share something of substance, like a link to an article. And now you’ve gotten to the best part: Enjoying your growing network!

In the next featured article in From Collector, read tips from Universal Fidelity LP on moving to an updated office space.

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