There are prime opportunities for networking at Conferences and Trade Shows, whether they take place virtually or in-person. We often attend these events with the single idea that we are there to take something away – information, education, free samples. However, don’t overlook the many ways to make new contacts and connections that can be useful to spread the word about your business.
Four Suggestions for Networking at Conferences
- Make new friends. Conferences are a great opportunity for making new connections. Don’t hang out only with the people you already know. Mix it up! Sit next to and talk to different people throughout the show. Go beyond a short and friendly greeting of hello with a smile. Introduce yourself and then ask about them and their business.
- Meet the competition. Trade shows are events where you can meet hundreds of people if you have a booth. Remember to meet and talk with the other exhibitors as well; do this as an attendee, too. They are all there to generate new business and meet new contacts, just like you are. These are the people you’ll want to follow up with first after the event.
- Let your voice be heard. If the conference has workshops, volunteer to speak. Presenting at a business conference is a marvelous way to attain more exposure for your company and your own area of expertise. To obtain this opportunity, you’ll want to plan in advance by meeting the coordinators of the event well ahead of time.
My recommendation is, when you attend a conference for the first time, make it a point to introduce yourself to the person responsible for booking the topics and speakers for next year’s event. Begin developing a relationship with this individual for the next year now.
- Be social. If the trade show you’re attending has a mixer or other networking event, don’t miss it! These are wonderful ways to make initial contact with people you’ve never met before. It pays to be there…many times over!
Don’t view these social events as the chance to close a deal, but rather as the first step down the long, profitable road of friendship and mutual benefit with a new referral marketing partner.
Follow-Up is Crucial
Of course, all of this good advice is worthless if you don’t engage in the critical follow-up process after the event. Plan a time to make a phone call, schedule a lunch meeting, or to send an email as a way of following up with the new connections you made. This is essential to build the foundation for a strong business relationship.
The most important thing I can impart to you is that you must approach this with a sense of wanting to learn as much as you can about the other people that you meet, instead of trying to tell them all about you.
Keep these points in mind when you have the chance to attend a conference or a trade show. Intentionally move out of your comfort zone to make new business contacts in addition to taking away information and education from the event. When you apply the tips in these suggestions, you’ll gain a whole new level of networking success.
What suggestions do YOU have for successful networking at trade shows and conferences?