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Networking like a Pro at Business Conferences

Let’s start of by understanding what “networking” is. It is the process of connecting with new people from your field and various other fields to build a relationship over a period of time. This relationship is genuine and is for the mutual benefit of both the parties.

You both start as strangers, but if you appreciate each other’s work and are able to connect with one another, whether on a personal or professional level, then a relationship can be build. The only way that can happen is if you are completely honest and be yourself. There is no point in trying to be someone else because sooner or later they will find out.
Today business conferences are a great way of getting to meet the people from the industry. They can be industry leaders or people at high levels of administration who might be interested in your idea, or willing to have a conversation. At these conferences you have the opportunity to sell your idea, form associations and even get like-minded people to work with.

Few things to keep in mind when a business conference is around:

Research, Stay up to date

You should know beforehand about the conference and its agenda/topic of discussion. Study about it and know the recent trends. Follow a couple of eminent speakers or their companies through social media to know what they are talking about currently. This will help you understand the various topics that may be up for discussion and gives you time to prepare yourself. It will leave a better impact if you can contribute to conversations by way of referring to a credible source like an online article or information that you might otherwise have. This projects you as a knowledgeable and reliable person. 

Reach early

Be at the venue at least 45 minutes to half an hour before the event starts. This is the best time to ease yourself and know the surroundings. It also gives you first mover advantage and you can talk to other people waiting around, discuss the expectations of the conference, etc. 

Talk to people, get to know them

It isn’t about who you already know at the conference. The idea is to get to know new people. Start a conversation with anyone with a “Hello, I am XXX and you are?” You can’t stand at a corner waiting to be approached. Take the first step.
You can join an ongoing conversation in a group or talk to a single person who might also be waiting to be approached. You have to ask them questions about them first and if they are interested too then they’ll ask about you. It is a two way street, don’t just talk about yourself, ask them about what they do; mention what you know or have read about that particular topic in the past. Then you can evaluate how “what they do” can help you mutually.
Don’t forget business cards!

Take a bunch of your own business cards to exchange, but don’t forget to collect business cards of everyone possible. Don’t be shy to ask for one. The whole purpose of coming to a business conference is to be able to know people, what they do and how you can benefit each other. So before a conversation ends you can say “It was great speaking to you. Do you have a card that I could use to get in touch with you later?” 

Get back in touch

The networking doesn’t stop at the end of the conference. The idea is to build a long term relationship. For that connecting again is important. It can be confusing who does what and keep a track of all the people you spoke to at the conference.

To avoid confusion make a database with people’s name, profile, designation and a comment about something that you remember they said. It could be a new job opening at his firm or a project he has been planning to work on for a long time.

Get back in touch saying “Hey. It was great to meet you!” and add a comment about something they mentioned in the conversation to make it more personalized. It gives a sense that you remember what they spoke about and also, it makes it easier for them to remember you. 

These are the few networking tips one should use when going to business conferences. It will help you attain a database that can get you in touch with the right people.

One should be open to sharing their contacts to help other people as well. This only expands your database. Help people without an intention to get anything in return, they might come to your rescue and get you in touch with the right people in the future.
Also, set meetings to continuously keep yourself updated about what they are doing currently.

You need to be able to decide the people that you want to deal with personally and how much time you need to devote to which person.

Your time is limited and crucial, and so is theirs. The opposite party may not always say yes, but if and when they do, be open to short and to the point meetings. Go prepared with the topics you want to discuss and get straight to the point. Respect their time and they will respect yours too. 

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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 13th April 2016.

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