In my previous blog post, I highlighted some recommended conferences in the Human Resources Industry to attend in the upcoming year.
Now that you have chosen a conference, booked a flight, paid for accommodation, and have your bags packed, I would like to share some advice to make the most out of the networking opportunities that these types of conferences present.
Connect with attendees before the conference
Many people miss this opportunity even though there are ample opportunities to do so. If there is a conference app, review the presenters and attendees and message anyone who you would like to set up a time to chat with at the conference. If there is no app, the website often has at least the featured speakers who you can connect with on Linked-In.
Another way of connecting with people is en route to the conference. Often people travelling on the same planes or trains to the hotel will be heading to the same destination and you can use that travel time to network with them.
Know your elevator pitch (and be prepared to share it)
You should know your elevator pitch and be prepared to adapt it slightly based on who you are speaking to. Make sure that the pitch includes brief information about who you are as well as a call to action that people might be able to help with. This could be something like, “My name is Hanna and I run a recruitment agency. I am here specifically to find a business partner.” Being specific helps the people you meet connect you with the right people to achieve your goals.
As well, you should also be prepared to answer common questions about your business and your experience related to your elevator pitch.
Be interested, not only interesting
One of the common mistakes people make at conferences is talking too much about themselves, their business and their experience. People engage and subsequently do business with people who are interested in them and their experience.
During each conversation, make sure to ask the person you are speaking to about their background, experience, business and interests. This will help you be more memorable and provide an opportunity to truly connect.
Don’t be scared of strangers
Many people at conferences are scared to “make the first move” and approach someone to start a conversation. To get over this fear, put yourself in a position where starting a conversation is more natural.
For example, sit down next to someone at a meal and ask them about their lunch or find out why someone has chosen a certain session while in line waiting to enter the lecture.
These types of questions are great ice breakers and can often lead to more in-depth conversations about relevant topics.
Use social media
Most conferences have a conference hashtag and often a Facebook or Instagram page as well. Make sure you “like” the pages to ensure you know about all of the casual meetups that are happening throughout the conference that might not be part of the official schedule.
As well, following the hashtags is another great way to see who is at the conference and provide a method of starting conversations with conference delegates.
While seemingly intuitive, the best way of networking at conferences is to be yourself. Make sure that you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses and develop your conference strategy accordingly.
For example, if you are introverted and prefer to have individual conversations with people at pre-arranged times, then spend time organising those meetings. If you are the type of person that enjoys being the centre of attention and drawing people to you, then do what you are good at and break the ice within groups of people.
Surveys after conferences often report that participants gained the greatest benefit not from the sessions they attended or the speakers they heard but from the people they met and the conversations they had. Do not miss out on this invaluable opportunity to connect with the people around you during these large scale events.