Conferences and events, such as the Festival of Business Woodley, are fantastic networking opportunities but it can be a bit challenging to know how to make the most of them.
Here are my top 5 tips:
- Planning and preparation
This is key for your success. Prepare yourself both mentally and physically – why are you there, who do you want to meet, and how will you introduce yourself?
You can rehearse mentally how you will walk up to people and how you will deliver your ‘elevator pitch’.
Remember your business cards – it is amazing how many people go to networking events without them.
When you arrive, take a few minutes to look through the attendee list to identify who you want to meet. You may find that somebody from the hosting organisation can introduce you.
- Recognise all the opportunities to network
Networking happens whilst wandering around the exhibition, over refreshments, during the speaker sessions and even whilst waiting in the queue at the registration desk.
During the exhibition remember to network with the exhibitors and, if you are an exhibitor, between exhibitors.
When you attend speaker sessions, look to sit next to someone you don’t know and start a discussion while you are waiting for the talk to start.
- Build relationships
People buy from people and networking is about building relationships. Think of questions that you can ask to start a conversation and pay attention to the person you are networking with.
Listening is more important than talking – take an interest in them.
- Networking is more than meeting your next big client or customer
It is rare to attend a conference where everyone is a potential client or customer, unless you are very lucky.
If your reason for networking is to develop business, then see everyone you meet as someone who has a network of contacts and could introduce you to someone they know.
Your job is to build rapport with them, establish trust and to find out who they know. This last part may not be something that you will learn until you have a follow-up discussion with them.
Remember too that there is more to networking than finding clients and customers. You could find a business partner, someone to collaborate with, pick up new ideas and perspectives, meet potential suppliers or employees.
- Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up
What is the point of investing your time attending a conference or event if you don’t spend time following up? Put time aside in your diary to follow up in the next day or so.
Look at the contacts you have made and decide how you will follow up – send information that you have promised, connect with people on LinkedIn and the most powerful of follow-ups is a meeting.
Follow these tips and you will make the most of the opportunity. Most importantly relax and enjoy the occasion.
For more tips and advice on networking read my blog http://www.breathoffreshair.uk.com/networking-uncover-the-nectar/ or contact me to discuss how I can help you.
This blog has been written by Jacqueline Harris of Breath of Fresh Air. As well as being Chair of the Festival of Business Woodley organising committee, Jacqueline is a highly experienced sales and leadership trainer and executive and business coach.
She helps business leaders and sales teams to achieve their dreams and goals and realise their potential while maintaining their health and wellbeing.