With hundreds of people around, conference networking often feels overwhelming. To get the most out of it, you need to craft your networking strategy carefully. Below we share 10 tips for effective networking that we gathered at the EMEC conference organized by MPI.
1. Prepare a plan
Do your homework, check out the attendance list and choose 3 people that you absolutely must talk to and another 3 that it would be nice to have a chat with during the conference. Less is more. So look for the right people and seek them proactively.
2. Find a balance between open and close-mindedness
Mike van der Vijver at his wonderful opening session emphasised that you need to mentally pre-plan rendezvous with people that you wish to talk to and search them up on the spot purposely. However, don’t focus solely on those chosen three, leave some space for candid meet-ups with other attendees. You need to find the right balance between being closed and open-minded.
3. Scan the territory
Ok, you’re alone in the hall and there are already loads of groups fully engaged in conversations. Now you need to find the right group to join. Look preferably for the groups of three whose bodily positions show that they are open to accepting another conversation partner. Christopher Barrat explicitly advised joining this open three groups with at least one woman.
4. Don’t hesitate
Once you chose the right group you want to approach, don’t hesitate. The longer you wait, the harder it gets and you start looking for excuses why not to join in. Christopher put it straight “Simply walk to them, ask – Can I join you? and then you shut up and wait.”
5. Be interested before you’re interesting
Before you get to introduce yourself, try to learn as much as possible about other people in the group. You know everything about yourself so why not to learn about new acquaintances and find the common ground for a further conversation and a prospective relationship.
6. Draw a person in
Attention span is getting painfully short these days. Therefore you need to draw a person into a meaningful conversation within the first 10-15 seconds. Have a few relevant questions ready in your mind. Start with light questions to gain trust before you move to a heavyweight investigation about the person’s job.
7. Remember the name
People are generally good at remembering faces but suck at memorising names. You can be sure that if you don’t remember the name, there is a huge chance that the other person doesn’t either. So ask! Check also if you wear your badge on the right side of your jacket so your partners can easily read it as you reach out for a handshake with your right hand.
8. Mirror people
People are much more prone to like other people that are similar to themselves. Stay who you are but try to mirror their behaviour, match the tonality of their voice and the way they speak, discuss the topics that you have in common and don’t be afraid to touch their upper arm. The studies showed that waitresses got 36% more tips when they touched leaving customers.
9. Invest in people
If you want to create truly strong bonds you need to invest in relationships and build trust before you ask for something specific. The only way to do that is to help people. Give without thinking of getting something back in exchange. You can do as little as introducing your conversational partner to someone else before you move on to another group. They will appreciate this tiny gift immensely and will give back ten times more.
And finally, remember networking is not about selling. Networking is about meeting new people and getting to know them. They need to know you and like you before they trust you and get in any business relationship.
Secret tip 1: Arrive 30-60 minutes before the conference officially starts. There will be only a few people and you will be automatically drawn to each other as there will be no one else to talk to. You will meet incredible people this way.
Secret tip 2: Add your new contacts to your social networks (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) either right on the spot or then in the evening after the conference day finishes. They will not remember you if you send them a request two weeks after the end of the conference.
Do you have any networking tips that are working particularly well for you? Share with us in the comment session.