Last month, I attended The Meetings Show in London. It’s an exhibition and conference focused on meeting professionals and exhibitors involved in UK inbound and outbound events. I’ve attended plenty of global conferences, but this time I found myself in a different situation: I was networking alone. For the majority of my travels for PCMA, I’m with my colleagues, and that makes networking a lot easier. With a friend by your side, making introductions can feel less daunting. However, networking solo doesn’t have to feel so intimidating.
If you find yourself flying solo to a conference, here are six key tips that can help make all the meeting and greeting you want to do feel more comfortable.
1) Everyone loves to hear their own names.
When you meet people, be sure to look them in the eye, and repeat their names after you first shake hands. Not only will it highlight that you’re paying attention in the moment, it can help you remember their names and faces later.
2) Keep the conversation neutral.
There’s a time and a place to discuss religion and politics, but it’s not at a casual cocktail reception. As you find yourself in new regions of the world, be sure to come prepared to discuss topics that won’t accidentally offend anyone.
3) Find a common bond from the conference program.
Keeping your discussion neutral doesn’t have to involve talking about the weather, though. At The Meetings Show, I used some of the insights I learned during the program as a springboard to a strong conversation. With sessions such as “Conference Food Doesn’t Have to Be Boring”, “The PCO is Dead” and “How to Think Differently to Disrupt Your Events”, there was plenty of material to help create compelling conversation with new meeting industry professionals.
4) Make the first move.
Rather than waiting for people to strike up the conversation, be confident and ask if you can join someone you haven’t met. Chances are, they’ve been in the same situation, too, and they’ll welcome your company.
5) Ditch the pitch.
Rather than worrying about selling your company, sell yourself. Focus on building personal relationships, and let the professional element naturally develop after the networking event.
6) Follow up.
By the time you return from a conference, you may have hundreds of unanswered emails. Don’t rush to answer them. First, focus on sending short messages via email or LinkedIn to everyone you met during your recent networking efforts.
Looking for advice on how to make your own meeting more conducive to creating new connections? Check out “5 Ways To Make Your Meeting A Better Place To Network.”