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Professional Networking: Networking At Conferences, Part 2
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Professional Networking: Networking At Conferences, Part 2 - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Networking At Conferences, Part 2

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Networking At Conferences, Part 2

Several weeks ago we discussed the merits of making connections at professional conferences, with specific pointers for introverted attendees (like us). Recent experiences confirmed our advice, some of which was culled from reputable sources on the web, but we’ve picked up a few more pointers and offer them as a supplement to our pep talk in October.

Be on time

If there’s a scheduled mixer, show up on time. If you’re a little bashful, this can be a real challenge because there’s a lot of chaos: people redeeming their drink tickets, people lining up for the food, people looking for a good spot, and some general confusion. However, this time of maximum entropy is when your fellow attendees will actively be looking for someone to chat up, which means you can usually let others make the initial contact. Some conferences have getting-to-know-you activities at these meet-and-greets, and while we understand the inclination to head for the exits, being on time means you get to push these feelings down and feel stupid along with everyone else. The benefit: forced conversation that can actually turn into meaningful contact.

...or show up half an hour late

There are a couple of advantages to showing up half an hour late. First, the drink and food lines will be completely gone, and you’ll be able to walk right up and get what you need without standing awkwardly in line.

However, the real advantage is the long moment you have to scope out the room and see the already-established groups of meeters and greeters. If you’re the type to seek out the most animated groups, you’ll find them gathered in larger numbers around a stand-up bar table, probably with their getting-to-know-you-BINGO cards already filled. Find a spot and slide in if you get the opportunity. Alternately, you can identify the table with the fewest people clustered around it, probably a quieter group and one where you won’t have to elbow your way to the table. You don’t even have to say anything except, “Do you mind if I—” because before you get the sentence out of your mouth, people will already be responding, “Yes, of course!”

There are always a couple of people who come in late and, rather than join a table, hang out on the fringes of the room. Don’t let them. Invite them to wherever you are; they’ll be grateful even if they don’t show it. Nobody shows up to a mixer just to stand near the wall.

Maintain the connection

This is more difficult to do if you’ve attached yourself to a large group, but look out for your new contacts through the rest of the conference, even if it’s just to ask, “Did you sleep well?” and “Which breakout session are you attending this afternoon?” Again, the point is not the actual content of your conversation, but the maintained connection.

If your new conference buddies came to the conference by themselves (and most of them did), initiate a dinner plan. Ask someone, “Hey, if you don’t have plans for dinner this evening, would you like to get together?” Or make it drinks after dinner. You’ll have at least a couple of takers, and it’s a way to solidify your connections. If you’re thinking you’d much rather find somewhere quiet to dine alone, we’re totally right there with you, but get your alone time later. You’ll be glad you made yourself socialize.

Follow up the next week

This probably goes without saying, but reach out via LinkedIn the week after your conference, and add a friendly note about how nice it was to connect. Communicate a desire to be of assistance whenever possible: “If you ever need someone to bounce ideas off of, or to brainstorm with, please reach out! I’m always down for some good brainstorming.”


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Professional Networking: Networking At Conferences, Part 2 - Executive Leadership Articles

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