An industry conference is a terrific opportunity to network with some of the most important folks in your field. But let’s face it, starting conversations with strangers isn’t easy. Here are tips to help you feel confident introducing yourself to people at all levels of your industry who can help you enhance your career.
Believe it or not, most people, even higher-ups, are just as nervous as you are. Here’s all you need to do to feel confident speaking to someone new: Make eye contact, smile, and make a comment about the conference. Remember—everyone is there to learn and to make connections—and everyone there has your industry in common.
Strike up conversations with people standing next to you in a line or sitting beside you at a talk. Anyonecould become a valuable connection. Even a quick conversation can be useful; just remember to exchange business cards. And should someone give you the brush-off—know that they’re not worth your time.
If there’s someone you’d like to speak with at an event, email them in advance and ask if they’ve got a few minutes to spare. Many will be happy to say yes.
Stay after a presentation and have a quick chat with the presenter. And don’t skip the after-parties, because people are even more open and approachable in relaxed social settings.
Ask Good Questions
Ask open-ended questions (ones that don’t elicit “yes” or “no” answers). Who is your favorite presenter so far? What’s the best meeting you’ve attended? What did you enjoy most about the last speaker’s talk?
Listen closely to the answers. Everyone loves to talk about themselves—and to feel they’re being heard.
Use Social Media
Tweet or post about an event during and after; take photos and tag those you meet.
Take advantage of conference apps and hashtags, and Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Reconnect with your contacts on social media when you’re back at work. Remind them about your interaction and say something positive about it.
Add your contact information to someone’s phone and vice versa.
Bring Lots of Business Cards
Business cards remain vital, despite social media. Have them accessible so you don’t have to fish around for one.
When you accept someone’s business card, jot down a few notes on the back so you remember your conversation when you’re back at work.