Networking is an essential part of business. While it takes a whole lot of vision, goals, passion, and determination to get you where you want to go, it also takes a good amount of connecting and building professional relationships. Networking can help you develop important connections, find supporters or partners for business, land new contracts, or even open up new job opportunities. It’s the business tactic least talked about, and yet, it’s actually incredibly essential.
One of the best tools for networking is attending conferences hosted by organizations or businesses. These tend to be incredible experiences, often attended by a number of motivated and focused individuals.
Attending an in-person conference might be the exact move you need to make the connections for the next step on your journey. Hear 4 top strategies of the experts that you can use in order to make the most out of the next in-person conference you attend.
Have a visible icebreaker.
It can be important to have a planned out way to start conversations with people, according to Chelsie Kenyon, founder of E.P.I.C. Collective. She says that this can be especially important for introverts and shy people.
Giving compliments is a great ice breaker, usually comes naturally, and is typically very well received. Kenyon encourages people to have a visual icebreaker that makes it easier for people to come and initiate conversation with you.
By using this tactic, Kenyon says she “walked away with contact information from at least 10% of the conference participants. It also increased the amount of conversations (I had) by up to 50%.”
Know that you’re building a table of trust, not a customer base.
Networking Strategist, Shelly Yorgesen, teaches that it’s important to understand that most likely your customer is not sitting in front of you. In fact, most likely the customer that you’re seeking is behind the people at your table.
Yorgesen says, “We all have between 100 and 250 people in our immediate network. If I’m sitting at a table with four to five other people, then I have one job at the event. That one job is to build trust with these people, to build some sort of rapport or relationship. As soon as I do that, then they are the gateway, they are the opener to their networks.”
Yorgesen goes on to explain that if she’s at a table with this handful of people and builds a relationship with them, she now has access to 1000 people from their networks. It’s a simple way to turn four contacts into 1000 contacts.
Your main goal at a networking event should be to build trust, not to sell your stuff. In fact, people who go to these events with the goal of selling end up disappointed and dissatisfied. Remember that you’re at the event to build a relationship of trust.
Make it about them.
As humans, we are wired to prioritize ourselves. That’s why, no matter what situation you’re in, there’s a simple way to get along with anyone: make it about them.
Steve Marie, founder of Redesigned Empire, teaches that people should focus on learning about others. “Ask what led them to come to this even, what their goals are, who they want to be introduced to,” Marie says. “Rather than going into networking conversations thinking, ‘what do I say? What’s my one-liner,’ change the question to, ‘How can I contribute to their lives?’”
Marie encourages that even if that person doesn’t turn into a prospect, lead, or even a good person for your network, learning to serve other people will get you further.
Help people know who you are before you show up.
Marketing consultant, Sonja Durik Harris, advises that before heading to a conference you need to make your name known. One of the biggest worries that people have before a conference is not knowing anyone. When you go to a networking conference and many of the attendees already know who you are, you’re in a great place and you have loads more confidence.
Harris offers a number of tips for getting attendees to know you before the conference. She says, “Create your own tribe. Start following hashtags of the conference and see who is going. Talk to people and get to know them. Set up a small Facebook group, develop relationships, start listening as referrals.”
Become an authority, a sought-out conference attendee, and walk into that conference with confidence, ready to network.