Attending a conference or networking event can open up huge opportunities both for yourself professionally and for your business. So how do you maximize your attendance at these events to ensure it’s not time wasted?
Prepare in Advance
For a majority of conferences and networking events, you’ll receive a copy of the agenda and schedule prior to the event. Take advantage of this opportunity by planning your schedule in advance of attending the event. By the time you arrive, you’ll have a complete game plan detailing a list of the key contacts that you’re hoping to network with, which sessions you’d like to attend, when all of the sessions are, and the times that you’ll be able to interact with other event-goers.
Additionally, it’s important to set goals prior to the event. If you’re a little apprehensive about networking, set a goal for the number of attendees that you’re hoping to network with. That way, you’ll have a clearer idea of how many people you need to speak with and how to ensure that you don’t get stuck speaking with the same individual the entire event. Setting goals make it all a little more feasible.
As is common in recent years, conferences and networking events often have a dedicated hashtag (#) or digital conversation going on that can be tapped into by attendees. Consider participating in this online community by taking pictures of various speakers and other facets of the event and sharing them online utilizing the designated hashtag. In addition, you’ll be able to get feedback from fellow attendees, connect and interact with them online, and potentially gain some new followers and connections (maybe even a few prospects) in the process.
Avoid Your Own Comfort Zone
The biggest mistake a person can make while in attendance at a conference or networking event is to leave without having made new, meaningful connections. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to network with other attendees. It’s crucial to mentally push yourself out of your own comfort zone and interact with people you don’t know. The goal of networking is to create new business and professional connections – this relies on your ability to start and hold business-related conversations.
Network with a Purpose
Simply going up to someone and handing them your business card isn’t going to get you very far – nor will conversing about personal matters that have no relation to the event or your business/industry. Network with a purpose. Have an idea of what you’re going to talk about when networking so you’re not stuck trying to come up with topics on the spot. This way, you’ll feel more comfortable in your interactions and hopefully generate more beneficial and rewarding conversations.
Introduce Yourself to Key Speakers
If there’s one group of people that you should always try and introduce yourself to, it’s the key speakers in attendance at the event. Speak to them after their presentation and follow-up about what you learned and what you thought was interesting and thought-provoking. By doing so, you might luck out and get additional details regarding their presentation topic and learn even more insight that other attendees won’t get a chance to. In addition, they may be a great resource and colleague to connect with after the event.
Stay in Touch and Reconnect
Don’t let all of your hard work go to waste. After the event, take advantage of the connections that you’ve made. Connect with your new contacts on LinkedIn and Twitter, add them to your business’s customer relationship management (CRM) software if applicable, or simply send them an email thanking them for the opportunity to connect and continue the conversation.
It’s important to make the most out of these events. You’ve taken time out of your busy schedule to attend; don’t let that time go to waste.