Most of us attend business seminars and conferences throughout the year. Needless to say, learning from the material offered is important, but more often than not the most beneficial part of attending these events is the business networking opportunities. It doesn’t matter how good your online networking efforts are, there’s nothing more effective then a face-to-face connection. The level of benefit however can be improved by some simple steps that you can take before, during and after an event. Here are some tips to get you going.
- Do some Pre-Event Research
Walking in cold and trying to connect with strangers can be daunting for many people.A bit of homework before the event can be a big help.The first step is to get to know the speakers. Find their website and/or blog and start following them on Twitter to get a feel for their presentation style and content. This will help you work out what sessions to attend and which to pass up on if there are optional breakout sessions. And don’t forget following on Twitter and participating in the discussions will give you a head start building relationships before the event.
- Find Connections.
Connecting with other attendees before a seminar will pay dividends during and after the event. To find out who is talking about it check on a #hastag for the conference. An easy way to do this is with Twitter Search. Follow the people that you find and set them up in a Twitter list or if you are using an application such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck collect them in grouping or other facilities provided by those applications. Remember to include the speaker(s) in this list.Once you have collected a few names, start connecting online. Have a look at what subjects the other attendees are interested in apart from the conference topic and get into an online conversation with them on those subjects. This is particularly important with regard to the speaker. S/he usually has only limited time available and tends to be in high demand. If you’ve already made contact via social media ahead of time you can skip the introductions and get straight to the core of the subject and what really matters.
- Identify your Must-Meet Contacts.
Make a list of your ‘must-meets’ using your Twitter list, Facebook Friends, etc. It’s your priority list of people who you intend to make contact with. It helps if you’ve made online contact with them before as that way you can “accidentally” bump into them and strike up a conversation. Remember, there hardly ever is much spare time at a seminar so use your time wisely and make sure that you don’t miss out on meeting the key people who really matter.If you connect with someone where there is mutual interest in a follow up contact then set a date there and then if possible. Making a call to action like “Let’s do lunch next Thursday” and putting it into your calendars is much more likely to get a positive result then just saying something like “Yes, we’ll definitely need to meet up soon”. Another important point; keep your ears open for other seminars and networking opportunities that may get mentioned at the event that you’re attending. It’s one of the easiest ways to broaden your horizon.
- Don’t forget your Business Cards.
Last but not Least “Business Cards” This is a must have at face-to-face business networking events but make sure that yours tells your story. Good cards that I receive:
- Remind me of who you are and what we talked about
- Have details of at least one of your social profiles but are not crammed overly full with non-essential info.