How to Really Connect At Your Next Conference
Getting ready to kick off conference season? Even if you’re a seasoned pro, you likely could still benefit from tips on how to get the most from each event. It helps to view conferences as more than just an educational opportunity; they can be fantastic places to network for both leads and professional connections. This isn’t always easy for every attendee. “Approaching new people can be difficult because of the obstacles we put in front of ourselves as well as those innate to a conference setting,” writes Alice Heiman in a recent blog post. “As a result, you sometimes leave events without making meaningful contacts.”
Her first tip is to start your day right. Often, breakfast is an option before a conference. Don’t skip out on this great opportunity! Heiman suggests heading there early to check out the room and find a spot to sit. Ideally, you should try to find a table that is already occupied and ask to join. “Don’t sit by yourself hoping someone will come to sit with you,” she urges. “Find a table that has happy people who are talking and join them.”
Often, attendees at conferences include tight-knit groups, which can be intimidating if you’re solo. Heiman shares some ideas for connecting more easily with others:
Connect beforehand. Check out the conference’s website, app, and social media pages to see a list of speakers and other attendees. Reach out beforehand to anyone who you think would make a great connection; it’s definitely easier to engage with someone electronically than in-person.
If it’s your first time attending a particular conference, contact the organizer. Often, events will have “extras” for newbies, such as programs or badges. Also, Heiman recommends asking if they can introduce you to a vet attendee who can show you the ropes.
Take time to research the speakers. Then, connect with them via a personal note or social media message. Ask if they would have time for a quick meet-up, and if not, make sure to say hello before or after their presentation. “You’ll be surprised how effective this gesture can be,” Heiman explains. “Developing relationships with speakers can provide you with resources and potential referral opportunities.”
For even more tips, head over to Heiman’s full blog post. Whether you’re naturally outgoing or need a bit of prodding to approach others, her advice will help you connect.