We all know that first impressions matter and in the world of business it’s all about the people you know. With Dreamforce taking place in San Francisco this week and the conference season upon us, how you can you make sure you meet the right people and leave a lasting impression? We’ve rounded up our favorite networking tips so you can easily connect with other professionals and make the most out of these new relationships.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE THE CONFERENCE
1. Research people and companies ahead of time
When you do your homework, you feel more confident and prepared. Take some time to not only read a company’s website, but also check out their Twitter and Facebook for additional information. By doing research, you avoid wasting valuable time talking to the wrong people. For instance, if you are looking to expand your network in the mobile security industry, you want to make sure you’re talking to people who are in the trenches and know the market.
2. Make sure your portfolio and social media profiles are current
The first thing most people do after accepting your business card is look at your social media channels like LinkedIn. Outdated information on your LinkedIn profile gives a false image of your credentials and expertise. Make sure your information is up to date and accurate and put your best face forward on all of your social media channels.
3. Dress for Success
Always strive to look your best at conferences because not only will it make you feel great, but also like a bad online profile, dressing sloppy can deter from an otherwise great business interaction. So take the time to pick out a great outfit, and remember to opt for comfortable shoes!
4. Memorize an easy introduction
Sometimes your nerves can get the best of you. One way to avoid this is to memorize a simple phrase to start a conversation with anyone. Ask them what brings them to the conference or if they know a good Wi-Fi spot nearby. Once you get past this hurdle making small talk doesn’t seem so hard.
WHAT TO DO DURING THE CONFERENCE
5. Network during down time
Your best chances to connect with people often happen when you least expect it. Such as during coffee breaks, the hours before the conference, walking to your car or public transportation, etc. Noteworthy working professionals, always have people waiting to speak with them, so it can be tough to introduce yourself during peak hours. At a conference, the quiet moments of the show are the best time to speak with someone.
6. Carry a pen with you at all times
You’ll go through a lot of business cards and even with your helpful friend, Google, it’s easy to forget the important connections you made. So always jot down a quick note on the back of their card to help you create an effective follow up email later.
7. Be creative with your name tag
Everyone wears a nametag, but how can you stand out from the crowd? One clever trick is to write one word or phrase below your name that can be a conversation starter. Jot down your alma mater, favorite sports team or the city you are from to spark conversations.
8. Grab lunch with a stranger
You’ll meet a lot of friendly people at conferences and taking the time to befriend them can pay off later. They may not seem useful now, but when you’re making a career change or moving to a new city having someone there to help you can make your transition easier. Lot’s of conferences have power lunches and open seating so breaking the ice with someone new doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.
9. Listen as much as you talk
Your elevator speech is important, but your listening skills can be invaluable. People love to talk about themselves, and the fact that you take the time to listen rather than rushing to respond is crucial. Practice one or two thoughtful questions you can ask people about themselves.
WHAT TO DO AFTER THE CONFERENCE
10. Take it easy on the alcohol
Making a good impression is hard enough so don’t ruin your efforts by drinking too much at evening receptions. Yes, many parties have free drinks available, but make sure to be responsible.
11. Send personalized LinkedIn messages and follow up on Twitter
Avoid sending generic invites on LinkedIn. Instead, take some time to remind them who you are. If you don’t have time to craft a great e-mail, then send them a short tweet. You can build a strong working relationship with someone by engaging with them on Twitter, but ideally do it within 24 hours, so you’re still fresh on their mind.
Conferences can be overwhelming, but if you keep these tips in mind and adequately prepare for the event, you can make sure every conference is a networking success!
I wrote this blog originally for BOCA Communications.