As the Cofounder and President of PowerToFly, a company connecting women and non-binary people with companies committed to becoming more diverse and inclusive, I’ve been to my fair share of conferences and networking events. PowerToFly ran over eighty events over the last twelve months!
Needless to say, I know how trying to meet new people at a multi-day event seems overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be exhausting. It can be reinvigorating and lead to useful connections that last for years to come -- after all, that’s why we go to conferences, right?
So, without further ado, here are my 5 tips for networking at a conference - read them, live them, and make the most of your time at SHRM19! (I’ll be attending so please let me know if you want to meet up - email firstname.lastname@example.org!)
1. Do Your Homework - Conference networking starts well before you pick up your nametag. Review the speakers and program as a whole a few weeks in advance so you can make a plan for who you want to meet and how you can connect with them.
*Pro tip* - Once you’ve decided who you absolutely want to meet at the conference, ask a mutual connection to introduce you on LinkedIn or send them a connection request with a specific ask. Tell them who you are, why you want to meet them/need their help, and propose a time to meet. If you’re delivering any pitches or talks of your own at the conference, you can invite them and ask them to connect for 5 minutes afterwards.
2. Practice Your Pitch - You’ll be introducing yourself a lot. Be ready to tell everyone you meet the following info in 30 seconds or less:
What you do
Why you are at this particular conference
3. Be Genuinely Interested in the People You Meet - Dale Carnegie’s old advice definitely applies to networking at a conference… Your ability to drive an interesting conversation that isn’t all about you will be a breath of fresh air for your fellow attendees. Try the following:
When you meet someone, repeat their name and use it in the conversation
Ask open-ended questions
Practice active listening
Smile and ask targeted follow-up questions
4. Take Notes - Once you’re done chatting with someone, jot down a few notes about the conversation. If you’ve done step 3 effectively, you should have several unique takeaways that go well beyond the person’s job title.
5. Follow Up & Share The Wealth - This is where the real fun begins. Connect with everyone you’d like to stay in touch with on LinkedIn and/or social media - when appropriate, you can use the notes you took to add a personal message that references something unique about the conversation you had!
Finally, consider sharing what you learned at the conference in a blog post or even a short video (you can share videos throughout the conference too). This is a great stepping stone to connect with fellow conference attendees you didn’t have the chance to meet, and to share your key conference takeaways with colleagues/acquaintances who weren’t able to attend the conference.
Originally posted on the Power to Fly blog.