Thursday, September 27, 2012

How To Network Successfully At Events and Conferences

Even the most confident person can be intimidated by a crowd. Take for example the classic 'house party' scenario - you're invited to a soiree by someone you barely know, and everyone else there is a complete stranger to you. How do you react? Do you clutch your drink and try to fade into the corner, hiding behind the cheese plant until you can make your escape - or do you throw yourself into the mix, socialising, getting to know people and taking numbers?

Now enlarge that scenario to a business event at a conference centre, but add into the mix not cheesy nibbles and a rather disappointing Chardonnay, but your company's future and hundreds of potential business contacts. So it's hardly surprising that networking at conferences and events can intimidate even the most capable social butterfly. However, there are things you can do to make your networking efforts pay dividends and allow you to mine the potential you're faced with at these important events.

1. Planning Is Everything

Don't just launch yourself into the melee and hope for the best. Before you even arrive at the venue, check the schedule. Use your time wisely - make sure you're in the right places at the right time. Look for opportunities to be in the same room as people with similar interests and you'll find it much easier to strike up a conversation.

2. Smile!

Your introduction is your metaphorical 'foot in the door'. Present yourself as someone who is easy to talk to, confident and business-like. Avoid too many jokes (especially if you're not good at them!), and have faith in what you have to offer. One of the hardest things to do is convince complete strangers that you're worth listening to. So convince yourself first, and that confidence will shine through.

3. Hashtag

Use other methods of communication, not just talking. Conferences today will inevitably have their own Twitter feed, so join in and add something worthwhile to the discussion (not just derisory comments about the buffet). And while we're talking about social media, blog about the event and then Tweet it to the delegates. Again, make sure you have something worthwhile to add to the conversation and invite comments.

4. Business Cards - Doing It 'Old School'

While bumping smartphones may be the latest way to transfer information, not everyone is as tech-savvy as an Apple Genius, so make sure you've got plenty of business cards with you.

5. Stand Out From The Crowd

You don't have to turn up in an Hawaiian shirt or wearing a silly hat, but make sure you're easily identifiable in a crowd. If you've developed an interesting piece of tech, carry it with you and demonstrate its charms to anyone curious enough to point at it and ask, "What's that, then?" By the same token, don't be afraid to talk to people in return. Recognise someone from a previous conference? Go up and introduce yourself with a cheerful, "I saw your presentation at XYZ Expo last month... "

6. Stay Focused

You're not at this conference or event to improve your social skills (save that for the house party we talked about earlier). You're here to increase your sales, introduce your business and network with other potential partners, customers or clients. Stay focused and remember the reason why you've come to this conference in the first place. Set yourself conference goals and make sure you achieve them (make three warm leads, attend the key-note speech or give away all of your business cards by the end of the event, for example).

7. Follow Up

After the event make sure you follow up any leads while you're still fresh in your potential client's mind. Network digitally with them via LinkedIn or re-establish one-to-one contact with them either by phone, in person or by email. Don't let the trail go cold, or you could be missing out on a great opportunity.

The Business Ladder is a boutique training company with a refreshingly skills-based approach to business and enterprise. We provide a range of professional training courses and consultancy services, suitable for both individuals and teams, designed to develop 'real skills for real results'.

For further information please call 0845 301 1533 or visit http://www.thebusinessladder.co.uk/courses-networking-for-business.html

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