Did your palms start sweating at the sight of the word networking? Don’t fret.
In honour of our upcoming conference, RISE, we decided to put together some tips and tricks to help you overcome the nerves of networking and have you collecting business cards before you know it. Aside from the incredible speakers and curated workshops, one of the most valuable aspects of attending a conference is the people you end up meeting — the relationships you make along the way will ultimately be what sticks with you long after the weekend ends.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “but I’m terrible at talking to strangers”, we’re here for you. Get ready to shine at your next event or conference with these seven tips on how to network like a pro.
1. Get a head start
Take the pressure off that initial face-to-face meeting and start by networking digitally. Check out who’s commenting, tweeting, and posting beforehand about attending and reach out about getting together at the conference.
2. Be prepared
It’s a good idea to have some conversation starters in your back pocket so you are ready to go when opportunity strikes. You already have something in common with everyone there considering you’re at the same event, so why not ask how they found out about the conference? While the topic of what they do for work will likely come up, try asking how they got there, or what attracted them to that industry or specific job. Networking is just as much about participating as it is listening, put yourself out there by sharing an interesting book or article you recently read, or podcast you listened to, then shift the spotlight and ask for your conversation-partner’s recent recommendations.
3. Take Stock of the Room
Chances are you aren’t the only one who is a little uncomfortable talking to strangers. Take a look around the room, do you see someone else who looks nervous or is standing alone? Head her way and introduce yourself. Yes… it really can be as simple as that.
4. Up your outfit game
Not one to take the first step and approach others? Wear something that stands out and gives people an opportunity to come up to you! While remembering names may not be everyone’s strongest skill, you’d be surprised how memorable a killer pair of shoes or a bold patterned suit can be.
5. Branch Out
Of course it’s important to connect with other conference-goers, but don’t rule out chatting with vendors, speakers, and conference hosts. Everyone there is a potential connection and you never know what opportunity may come your way from breaking out of the typical conversation circles.
6. RSVP to those bonus events
Not everyone attends the optional portions of a conference such as the breakfasts, off site dinners or sweat sessions. Give yourself the upper hand, and say yes — you’ll likely have the opportunity to connect in a more intimate setting.
7. Take notes
It’s one thing to grab someone’s card or add them to your LinkedIn network, but take it one step further and write down a few unique points from your conversation. Say your new connection mentioned she has an upcoming trip planned, or told you about her favourite film, jot that down so when you reach out in the future you have some personalized conversation starters.
While networking can be intimidating, it’s often those challenging moments that push us and cause growth. RISE out of that self doubt, take the chance and start the conversation. You got this.
What are your tried and true networking tips or conversation starters?