Getting in touch with vendors, investors and clients has never been as easy as it is today. With a slew of technology at our disposal, reaching out to your contacts is just an email or video call away.
However, despite all the advancements in communication technology, nothing beats the power of face-to-face connections. Events like conferences, seminars, and tradeshows not only provide you the opportunity to connect with peers, build contacts and foster great relationships but also offer invaluable insights and strategies to advance your business or career.
Though the benefits of networking are clear, the ability to network successfully determines the real value. Networking professionally is a skill, an art that needs to be polished and perfected by regularly connecting with people at corporate events and conferences. However, if you are attending for the first time or simply not used to connecting with other professionals face-to-face, networking can prove challenging. A recent Cvent and Edelman Intelligence study, Inside the Mind of Event Attendees, revealed that networking is the 3rd highest point of stress at events for the 1,000 UK respondents surveyed.
The networking challenge must be overcome so you can gain the most from your event experiences and make valuable connections at the events you attend. But don’t do it alone! Here is a handy guide that will help you understand how to go about it.
Pre-Event Preparation – Socialise Online
This is especially necessary if you have difficulty breaking the ice with people. If there are specific attendees, speakers or vendors you want to connect with during an event, you can start networking with them before the event. Look up their website, follow their blog and read any interesting news on their company. Since a lot of event engagement now happens on social media, you can send a tweet or post a comment on their Facebook or Instagram profile to convey your interest. You can also follow the event hashtag (e.g. #cventCONNECTeurope2019) to track conversations and engage with participants by asking relevant questions or providing relevant insights.
Nowadays, many tradeshows and business conferences have dedicated event apps which allow you to browse attendee lists and arrange times to connect with one another. Of course, if your priorities for connections are clearly sorted out, sending a formal email also does the job!
Equip Yourself with Conversation Starters
During an event, it is entirely possible that you could be in a room packed full of potentially valuable contacts but you are a little intimidated by the idea of taking the initiative to engage. But by keeping a low profile you could be saying goodbye to some great business opportunities. In cases such as these, the onus is on you to be the conversation starter. Scan the room and find a circle that looks easy enough to join. Maybe you see some people standing around a table that you can use to rest your drink. Maybe they are sitting in a place that’s easy enough for you to join.
Doing this gives you one of the easiest first liners to open the conversation – “Is anyone sitting here?” or “Do you mind if I rest my glass here?”
After this, be bold! Simply offer your hand for the customary handshake and introduce yourself. You’ll often find that the person will reciprocate quite easily. Afterall, they came to the event to do exactly what you are doing and are likely to be grateful that you made the first move. You can follow with:
“How long have you been working for <xyz>?”
“I actually follow you on Twitter and saw that you recently said…”
“Which speakers did you find the most interesting?”
“What sessions are you looking forward to?”
Don’t Forget Your Charger!
Business conferences tend to last all day and if there is a dedicated event app, you will likely be using your phone a lot to capture information, find your way around the event, answers polls and surveys and to connect with people. Make sure you don’t forget your mobile charger or your power bank as a dying battery should be the least of your concerns.
Carry Business Cards and Take a Notepad
To build connections, you need contact details, which are usually available in the event app. However, not all events are using technology to its full advantage and there may not be the right technology in place to enable you to connect so easily. To overcome this, go old school! Carry business cards to exchange contact information and use your notepad to jot down some notes to remember the context of your conversations. You can later on revisit them at your leisure.
Be Cordial and Be Yourself
Respect the personal space of people. Be polite in your conversation, give time to speakers to recoup after their sessions, and do not persist if a person is not keen on engaging with you (maybe try not to follow them to the loo!). One of the most important things to remember is to be yourself. It can often look awkward when you are trying to be something other than yourself. Don’t be afraid to be honest and open about who you are and your intentions.
More Than a One Hit Wonder
Is the event over? Well, your networking isn’t! Collecting cards and scanning badges is all fine, but you need to solidify the connections you have made. All the positive conversations you had will come to naught if you do not follow up after the event. Simply drop them an email or give them a call to get started. Your connections are a like a tree sapling — you will have to nurture and grow them in order to develop a long-term, productive business relationship!
Improving your networking skills is certainly the most recommended plan of action to get the most out of any event. But have you wondered what’s the approach of other attendees around the globe when they are attending an event? Download your copy of Inside the Mind of Event Attendees to know more!