Conference Networking

A few years ago I was given a gift
by the authors of my favorite networking book: Work the Pond

They shared the secrets of conference networking which they referred to as “the olympics of networking” because a conference has all the toughest elements:
– Breakfast networking
– Session and break networking
– Cocktail receptions and sit down lunches / dinners
– After hours event/social networking

As always, best to consult the experts.
Read the book, visit their site and subscribe to weekly tips!

Here are a few of my favorite’s I’ve picked up along my adventures:

1. Pre-network! Before the conference, get the delegate list early.
Send out emails to peers and set up meetings.
Consider who you want to meet, ask same peers to help you meet them.

2. Don’t play by the rules.
If the conference is in your home town,
if the committee hasn’t organized an out of towners dinner
– do it yourself!
No cost, just an open invite to anyone who is in town before or after. Last year I did this just using twitter and 60 people showed up!

3. Business cards are the cheapest thing in the world. Don’t ever go to a conference with less than a box of them in your suitcase. Consider them to be like lottery tickets, every one given away (with context, not spam) is a possible big score

4. Get people working for you. At the conference be sure to visit the exhibitors, they have made the conference possible. After listening to them, share what you do. Often when they chat with delegates they make connections on your behalf. Remember though, be authentic, promote them when possible, seek first to provide value and it will come to you…

5. Take notes on business cards of cconversations to help you follow up and remember people ( don’t write in front of them, in some cultures it’s very rude)

6. Dump the lanyard. I don’t know about you but I have enough problems in my stomach area, I don’t need to draw attention there. Plus they are always flipped over or out of place. Spend the $2 to get a magnetic nametag holder! Most folks have one from work, just slip that one into the conference nametag and toss the lanyard!
Ps. The proper place for a nametag is always as high as possible over your handshake arm.

7. Face time. If you are a night owl, go out, meet people, talk shop ( again, organize a dinner around common challenges ). If you’re a morning person, post that you’re hosting a walking/running group at X time. You are here to make real connections, know your time of strength and work it.

8. Work those breaks! Don’t huddle in the corner on your smartphone. Again, seek first to provide value and others will reciprocate. When you meet someone you know can provide value to others, take 10 cards from them and be sure to share them with others before you leave.

9. Follow up, NOW. Before the conference get 100 blank cards. Return address and stamp them. Fill them out with “great to meet you” “let’s book lunch” “that was a great session” “you should meet with ” comments and post them before you leave the hotel for home.

10. Don’t flush the experience. After the conference, give yourself at least two hours to follow up with emails and calls so you can reap the networking rewards of attending. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. That’s not how you should treat a conference! Follow up, share contacts, book meetings – it’s a momentum builder!

I hope these tips were of value.

Much of what I have learned is because of the Shepa team. They have a high value conference kit brochure that SHOULD be on the list of every conference committee.

Happy networking, Paul

3 Replies to “Conference Networking”

  1. Excellent tips, excellent strategies. I can say that I've had the gift of learning a lot of these skills from you and from watching you in action and they absolutely pay off.

    Thank you for summarizing them here so well. Just about to forward your LinkedIn starter tip sheet to a new contact and stopped by the blog to get the link.

    My final question is once I've done the post-conference follow up by phone and/or email and tried to add everyone possible to LinkedIn to create an online address book, what do I do with all those cards I collected since I tend to look people up online now.


  2. I like most of these rules – especially the lanyard one. The only one with which I would quibble is the first one. Back in the day when I was organizing events, I would never send out a list of attendees – especially with contact info. I would consider this a great breach of privacy.

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