Networking is about building long-term relationships and a good reputation over time. It involves meeting and getting to know people who you can assist and who can potentially help you in return. You want to get the word out about yourself or your business and make valuable connections, but you can’t just show up, hand out business cards and expect it to be a success. Conferences are a great opportunity for networking but for some, this can be an overwhelming experience.
Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, getting the most out of any conference can be a challenge from making sure that you go home with tangible takeaways to making fresh and meaningful connections. We have put together some tips you might find useful to make networking easy and worthwhile.
You need to be deliberate and intentional about networking as much as any other aspect of the conference. Do not leave it to chance. Decide the type of people or organisations you would like to interact with and go for it.
TIP 1 – RELAX
Firstly, relax. Most people are feeling exactly like you, so try to relax, relax, relax! Do not put yourself under any pressure and make up your mind to enjoy the conference.
Remember: The power of the mind is literally unstoppable. You decide how the conference will be for you
TIP 2 – PRACTICE YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH
An elevator pitch is an essential tool for marketing yourself and/or your business. You have a limited time (max 60 secs) to make a good 1st impression while getting the essential information of what you do across and remember that it has to be clear and to the point. Practice in the mirror, to colleagues, friends and family. Take constructive feedback. More Practice = More Confidence
Remember: The more you practice, the more confident you are.
TIP 3 – CONVERSATION STARTERS
Be prepared with some great conversation starters. Sometime when we are in the midst of new people we are not sure what to say and the conversation can become awkward.
Some examples of good conversation openers for conferences include:
- What got you interested in coming to the WIMBIZ conference this year?
- What sessions/speakers are you looking forward to?
- What has been your favourite sessions/speakers so far?
- I see you work at………., what is that like?
- What’s your favourite part of the conference and why ?
- I like your………. ( Just make sure it is an honest compliment !J… People can spot a phony a mile away)
- What do you think about…? (Ask their opinion about something said during the conference or newsworthy)
Remember: Being shy is normal, letting being shy stop you from connecting is a choice…….
TIP 4 – EXPRESS INTEREST
Networking is a two-way street. You are more likely to make more meaningful connections if you show genuine interest in other people. Try to focus on learning more about people, what they do and their interests rather than what you want from them and this will yield more long term meaningful contacts.
Remember: People respond not only to what you say but how you say it, be interested in what the other person has to say … you never know what you’ll learn…….
TIP 5 – Business Cards! Business Cards! Business Cards!
Do not forget these. Business cards are a valuable asset to have on you. It is a quick, easy effective way to introduce yourself and share contact information. Even if you are currently between jobs, have business cards made which have your contact information on to hand out (add your social media handles if you want to be connect that way).
Remember: Have lots of cards, more than you think you will need. It is better to have excess than to run out.
Remember: making notes of your conversation on the business cards you receive will help you to easily remember the conversation and the people
TIP 6 – BE APPROACHABLE
Drop the phone……having your face stuck in a phone all day makes people less likely to approach you.
Remember: Have a smile on your face at all times, you’re more approachable when you smile ….
TIP 7 – USE SOCIAL
Take as many pictures as you can and tweet or post about the conference. Make sure you tag the people that you meet
Make constructive, positive comments about the sessions and speakers you hope to meet and tag them too.
Remember: Your social media is also a tool of communication, use it wisely. Always use the conference hashtag #UnstoppableYou #WIMBI17thAnnualConference and remember to tag @wimbizng
Hint to help with prepping: Download the WIMBIZ App and use it to keep up to date with conference and find out more about the speakers and sessions (Thank us later!!)
TIP 8 – BEWARE OF CONFERENCE BUDDIES
As great as it is to go to a conference with a friend/colleague, it is very tempting stick with them throughout (your comfort zone!). However, this can make it hard to network well or for other people to approach you. Decide on deliberate times to disconnect with your friend and ‘walk’ the room alone to meet other people. You can always catch up with your friend later.
Remember: Nothing ventured, nothing gained… The fear of not connecting can only be overcome by actually trying.
TIP 9 – FOLLOW UP
After the conference, do not forget to follow up with the contacts that you have made. Send an e-mail or LinkedIn invite/message to all the people you have met. Briefly summarise any interesting point and saying it was a pleasure to meet them. You can simply end with “Let’s keep in touch”. If there was a specific ask/request, remember to include it
Remember: – People are more likely to visit your profile pages post the conference especially all the new people that you just met. Make sure that your LinkedIn, Twitter or other social medial profiles are up to date with the information you want people to see and know about your business
TIP 10 – HAVE FUN
After all has been said and done, remember to have fun. Remember the goals you set for yourself before attending the conference. Do not get bogged down with networking and lose sight of those. When it seems a bit overwhelming, take a break, take a deep breath and re-focus
Remember: There is something awesome about you … Just be you!
Share your best networking tips and moments with us. Follow us @wimbizng
Molade Adeniyi & Opeyemi Oduwole