How can you build your personal brand and your business at a conference? Start with some serious networking. Here’s how to make the most of the opportunity.
People attend business conferences to network so don’t feel awkward in starting a conversation with a total stranger, except where it is very obvious that the person is having a confidential conversation with another person.
Some good strategies include:
- During a conference session ask a question of the speaker. This will attract attention and often lead to other people coming to talk with you. It will also give you the opportunity to talk with the speaker after the event with any follow-up.
- Try and avoid handing out a business card unless you do believe that the other person would like to receive it. It is virtually guaranteed that you will be forgotten if you do not have a meaningful conversation and handing over a business card will not make that any better.
- Occasionally have a conversation without offering a business card at all and instead wait until the other person asks for your business card. This will tell you that you have now started to network in a persuasive manner.
- Make a decision as to whether you have any other handouts that you would give to people that you’re speaking to at the conference
- Survey the room from time to time to reassess whether there are any particular people that you would like to meet and talk with
- If you see people that are standing in a group, get to know the body language signals as to whether they are inviting in another person to join; generally this is shown by the group standing with an obvious gap such as when two people are standing almost side-by-side leading space for you to step in to make a triangle
- Have a clear plan as to how to leave a conversation if it is not going in the right direction or is delaying you from meeting another person at the conference
- When you collect business cards ideally wear a shirt with a top pocket so that you can place the business cards into that top pocket in order or put them into a purse, carefully making sure that they are put in the order of meeting people.
- Don’t feel embarrassed about writing a couple of notes on the back of each business card with helpful reminders of your conversation or promises that you made to that person to send them details.
- Think about your alcohol consumption if you want to remember the conversations that you have had in the days and weeks after the conference.
- Assess the standard of the conference speakers and seriously think about whether you would be a speaker or contributor at the next conference.
- Look out for the final part of this guide to making the most of conference attendance.