How to Network at Conferences

Make lasting connections at industry events—with the right preparation.

6/17/2019 1:30 PM

NewsCollector Magazine
How to Network at Conferences

ACA International’s 2019 Convention & Expo is less than a month away and an important time to learn trends and practices in the accounts receivable management industry while building connections with colleagues.

It can be daunting to connect through face-to-face conversations but developing a networking strategy in advance is a helpful tool, reports Collector magazine Managing Editor Anne Rosso May.

Here are some ideas to break the ice and make the most of your time at professional gatherings:

  • 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 before you get there. “Be open to connecting with everyone, but also be strategic and seek out who you want to meet,” Angelina Darrisaw, founder and CEO of C-Suite Coach, told Rosso May. “If the conference doesn’t have a list [of registered attendees] available, try checking the [event] hashtag on various social platforms. Chances are other conference-goers have posted about their excitement for the conference.” Check for #ACAConv19 on ACA’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for convention updates.
  • Keep your cellphone at arm’s length during professional gatherings and don’t be tempted to stare at your screen in a room full of strangers. 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, Rosso May reports. General conversation starters like “How many times have you been to this conference?” or “Have you been to this city before?” can get things rolling before you dive into business talk.
  • But, remember to take things in stride and have realistic expectations for networking at a conference, especially large events like ACA’s convention. 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. This scaled-back approach can help “ease any anxiety being felt about a crowded room,” said Keith McHugh, owner of Painted Rock Enterprises LLC. “Admittedly, this will mean your network will expand a little slower, but the connections will be stronger and more engaging.”
  • Lastly, follow up with the contacts you meet at the event. Go through the business cards you collect and try to send a follow-up email to all promising contacts within a few days. In those emails, Sharon Schweitzer, founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, recommends referencing how you met, in case the person doesn’t immediately remember, Rosso May reports. For example, you could say: “It was a pleasure meeting you at the golf tournament last week. You mentioned you just invested in new collection software; I’d live to hear how the transition is going.”

The bottom line? Keep things simple and develop a focused and realistic networking plan that isn’t overwhelming and make sure to stay in touch with your new contacts. Visit the 2019 Convention & Expo website for all the details about the event July 14-16 at The Hilton San Diego Bayfront. Not registered yet? There is still time to join us!

Read Rosso May’s complete article How to Network at Conferences for more guidance on connecting with your industry peers face-to-face.

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