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How to Network Like a Pro at Conferences

Business.com / networking / Last Modified: July 5, 2018
Image credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Discover strategies to help you stand out from the crowd at conferences. From elevator pitches to pro tips - you'll become an expert networker in no time.

Conferences are a great opportunity for networking, in fact 85 percent of jobs are filled through networking, but they can be an overwhelming experience. You want to get the word out about yourself or your business and make valuable connections, but you can’t just show up, hand out business cards and expect it to be a success.

There are strategies that help you appear more confident and make a ton of meaningful connections that help grow your business. Here are some tips that will show you how to network like a pro at conferences.

Practice your elevator pitch.

Your elevator pitch is an essential tool for marketing your business at conferences. You have a limited time to make a good first impression while getting across the gist of what you do, so you need to craft an effective elevator pitch.

Your elevator pitch should:

  • Be short and sweet

  • Show your passion

  • Be memorized and practiced

  • Show your expertise

Generally you have about 60-90 seconds to deliver your elevator pitch, or about 150-250 words. Make sure it’s clear and to the point, while remaining interesting. Try practicing your elevator pitch in front of the mirror. The more times you practice, the more confident you’ll be. You can switch it up for many different occasions and it’ll be ready to go any time you need to use it, whether at a conference or a chance meeting at a coffee shop.

Express interest in others and ask questions.

While it’s important that you get yourself out there, you have to remember that it’s not all about you. Expressing interest in others and asking questions will benefit you greatly at conferences. People love when others show they care. You’ll make a great first impression, and people will be more likely to remember you.

Don’t just stick to the basic, overused questions like, “Where are you from?" Try asking meaningful questions like, “What are you most passionate about?” A true connection will form when you have an engaging, mutually beneficial conversation and each party feels heard and important.

Reach out right away so they remember you.

Think about it, how many business cards are handed out at a conference? Too many. Most of those business cards end up in a pile somewhere only to get ignored, and only 9 percent of people add business card info to a digital list, according to Convey.

Instead of just exchanging business cards and hoping they connect with you, reach out right away so they remember you. Take their business card, and instead of giving them yours, pull out your phone and tell them you’ll email them immediately so they’ll have your information. That way they’ll have all your contact info right in their inbox instead of your business card getting lost in the pile.

While you’re emailing them on the spot, try working a joke or a memorable moment from your conversation into your message to them. For example, “Thanks Bob, I’ll send you an email right away, I’m going to write a reminder in here that I’m the guy with the weird pineapple shirt.” You’ll make them laugh and form a stronger connection, making them more likely to remember you.

Take notes about your conversations.

At a conference you might have hundreds of different conversations with hundreds of different people all in one day. If you’re making a great connection with someone you’d like to work with in the future, you don’t want to risk messing up the relationship by forgetting something important you spoke about. You might offend them and miss out on a great opportunity, so don’t rely on only your memory.

After ending the conversation, take a moment off to the side for taking notes on your phone or even on the back of their business card. Jot down key points of your conversation, important info about them and what you could help them with or vice versa. The next time you speak with them you’ll be able to refer back to your first conversation.

It’s better to make fewer meaningful connections at a conference than to speak to a ton of people that will never end up reaching out in the future. If you have a strategy in place for networking at conferences, it’ll be much less stressful and more successful event overall.

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