Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Top 5 Tips to Make Networking Happen at a Conference

I was bouncing through LinkedIn the other day, and I stumbled upon a question by Julius Solaris of the Event Manager Blog asking people to list their top five "tricks" for networking during conferences. He got an interesting set of responses. I won't steal any of his thunder, as he plans on using the responses in a blog post, but I do suggest that you read the discussion.

That got me thinking about my own approach to networking at a conference. I won't say these are the be-all and end-all of networking at conferences, and a lot of the same advice I give about networking (be open, and it's not about you) would still apply.

Get a copy of the attendee list and look up people on LinkedIn. Often you get a list of attendees when you register and get your badge and materials at the conference site. It's well worth the time to scan through, see who is attending, and use LinkedIn to find out more about your fellow attendees. I did this earlier this week for a meeting I was attending, and it was a great help.

Use LinkedIn Answers to ask if others are going to the conference. That way you will go to the event having some connections already started.

Volunteer to help out. This isn't appropriate for all events, but if it is an event being run by a non-profit or an industry association, then chances are that they depend on volunteers to make things happen. Spending an hour helping to make the event work will pay off in ways you cannot imagine.

Be friendly. Talk to people while standing in line for coffee. Strike up conversations with the people sitting near you who are also waiting for the session to start. Questions like: "What do you think of the conference so far?" "Have you heard this speaker before?" "What did you think of the last session?" Note that no business cards have exchanged hands.

Connect other people. Ask people who they would like to meet. Then, if you meet someone later that fits that profile, ask if you can introduce the two together.

Meet the speakers. Presumably, the speakers had something interesting to say and were speaking to a topic you want to learn more about. Go up, ask a question. Even better, ask a question that requires some degree of follow-up. Then, follow-up. Try an experiment and, for one conference, go and ask a question of every speaker.
Well, that's 6 tips, but no matter...

Photo uploaded by Evan•L


Julius Solaris said...

Hi Oliver

I appreciate your referencing, but I would have preferred you waited for to the post to be out and selecting another title. Or at least attempt to answer the question and wait to blog about it.

I am not happy with that.


Oliver Picher said...

I'm sorry for your unhappiness. I didn't reply to the question on LinkedIn as it was 5 days old and you already had many excellent responses.

The first thing I did was to go to your blog to reference your post, but it wasn't there yet. If I waited, chances are I would have forgotten, so I decided to post immediately.

As for the title, I actually did make changes to what you had posted on LinkedIn, so if I ended up with the title you intended to use, then I was reading your mind. The title's pretty generic as it is. We're not the first to write on this topic, and no doubt we won't be the last. It's a good topic, and I'm glad you are taking the time to explore it on your blog.

I love what you're doing with your Event Planning group on LinkedIn. It's a great idea and I wish you all the best with it.