Has the thought of networking at conferences and events ever sent your heart into your throat, and tossed your stomach upside down?
It’s November 1, 2011.
I’ve just touched down in Portland, Maine: my new home.
The past 30 days have been a DOOZY.
- I quit my job in San Diego
- I sold all my belongings
- I said good-bye to my family
- I moved across the country to live with my boyfriend, who I’d been dating for 3 months
- I started my own business – for the first time ever
Sounds pretty crazy, right?
I look at November 1, 2011 as a pivotal day in my life.
Not just because it signified a massive lifestyle change.
Not just because it meant that I was living in a new city with a fairly new boyfriend.
But because it was the day I took action on a REALLY BIG DECISION.
Getting out of your comfort zone
November 1, 2011 was the day I got way outside my comfort zone, and ever since, I’ve continued pushing my boundaries and exploring things I NEVER thought I would have done before, like:
- Writing emails to tens of thousands of people;
- Launching my own podcast;
- Speaking on stage;
- Creating online training courses.
But perhaps the scariest thing out of all these – and trust me, all of these things were REALLY SCARY – is networking.
Up until November 1, 2011, I hadn’t really done too much networking.
At school dances, you could find me huddled in the corner with all my besties.
In college, whenever we had to do group projects, I’d feel so anxious I could barely concentrate – let alone add any value.
And at work, well, I oftentimes secretly appreciated being the one behind the scenes; it meant I wasn’t really invited to participate in the events and meetings I was in charge of organizing.
As you can imagine, moving to a city where I knew exactly 1 person and trying to start a business was kind of tough.
But because I was working on pushing my boundaries, I did a lot of uncharacteristic things, like:
- Finding meetups and mixers to attend
- Hiring a mentor and joining her group coaching
- Started showing up to events by myself in order to meet new people
None of this was in any way, shape, or form comfortable or familiar to me.
I was terrible at introducing myself and even worse at trying to communicate what it was I had to offer through my business.
Luckily, I was able to find one thing I was really good at: listening to other people.
That was my lifejacket.
And it was through listening to others I learned how I wanted to show up – or not show up – when it was my turn to talk.
5 Tips: How to network at conferences and events
So with that, I’d like to share 5 tips I’ve picked up over the years to help you leverage networking opportunities at events!
Tip 1: Be interested
There’s nothing worse than attempting to connect with someone who clearly would rather be hanging out by themselves, talking about themselves.
Instead of trying to be as interesting as possible, focus on being interested in what others have going on.
Ask questions about their business, how they got into whatever it is they’re doing, and try to find similarities that can connect you on a personal level. Maybe you’re from the same hometown, or you went to the same college.
And keep it fun!
Tip 2: Be prepared
Events are busy, and sometimes it can feel like an entire day lasts just an hour. If you’re not prepared, the opportunities to network and build connections could be gone before you know it.
So make sure you do your research ahead of time.
Who will be attending the event you’d like to meet? Make it your goal to be in the same place as that person at a time when you can introduce yourself and get to know them a bit. Even if it’s just a quick hello the firs time around, hopefully there will be another opportunity to connect during the time you’re there.
Tip 3: Add value
How can you add value? What recommendations can you share, or advice can you give based on your own experience? Are there any introductions you can make that might help the person you’re connecting with?
If you can add value to others, they’ll become interested in what you have going on.
Tip 4: Your blurb
Practice what it is you’ll say when someone asks, “what do you do?”
You should be able to quickly and clearly describe what it is you do and why.
A good ‘template’ for this is:
I help ____ do ______ so they can ______.
Tip 5: Follow up
It’s great to create connections and network at events, but what about once the event is over? Make it a point – actually schedule time in your calendar – to follow up with those you connect with after the event is over.
Continuing the conversation and developing a relationship overtime will help serve you both ongoing.
You’ve got this!
Making the most out of networking at conferences and events isn’t easy. It takes patience, preparation, and practicing how you’ll carry yourself in order to succeed.
So start practicing now!
What’s one tip you have for those looking to network at conferences and events? Share it in the comments section below!