Conferences are an inevitable part of professional working lives, especially if individuals and companies wish to keep up with technology and best practice. But conferences are certainly overwhelming for the most extroverted and knowledgeable individual. How does one successfully navigate the networking opportunities, meet-and-greets, awards ceremonies, the dozen or more lectures and thought pieces, and still manage to keep track of everything?
Perhaps you are planning to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) in March. Perhaps you have never attended a conference before, or this is your first time at an international conference. Perhaps you are merely curious and wish to poke around for ideas or you are looking to come away from the event inspired and ready to change your business. Perhaps you are only there to network and arrange collaborative coffee dates or you dislike socialising. Regardless of your intent, these eight tips are certain to make you feel more confident at a conference of global prestige.
1. Attend the initial briefing: While many seasoned conference delegates would opt to give these events a miss, they are actually very worthwhile, especially if you are looking to make some new contacts. Whether you are uncertain about what to expect from the conference or could go through the motions blindfolded, these events are ideal to meet people who are likewise looking to make connections.
2. Change your attitude: Many people dislike networking because they feel forced to do it. Rather, focus on networking professionally with others in order to advance your own aspirations for yourself and your business and it won’t feel like a chore.
3. Spend your time wisely: Only attend sessions if they will expand your knowledge base or if you wish to show your support for the speaker or meet them. If you choose the sessions you wish to attend instead of trying to attend them all, you will have some time to arrange meetings with like-minded people or accidentally ‘bump into’ that one person you’ve been trying to meet with. Also remember to set aside some time to relax.
4. Meet before you meet: Consider people attending the conference with whom you wish to meet and introduce yourself ahead of time. Try to arrange a coffee date with them, tell them you’ll be attending their session if they’re speaking, offer to share notes, or ask to sit together during a session you are both interested in attending.
5. Turn your phone off: The aim of conferences is to get people together to meet face-to-face and interact on an interpersonal basis. Sitting with your cellphone checking your mail is a terrible barrier against making new connections.
6. Remember to cement current relationships: While conferences are the ideal place at which to foster new collaborations, it is also important that you make time to meet with colleagues or individuals with whom you already have a working relationship. However, be clear that you cannot spend all your time with people you know.
7. Follow-up: The follow-up is possibly the most important aspect to networking at conferences. It’s all well and good that you’ve connected with people while at the conference, but those people have likely met as many people as you have and might not follow up with you.
8. Share and share alike: Share the resources and knowledge you gained from the conference with your employees and colleagues.