Industry conferences are invaluable tools for business event strategists. They provide logistical inspiration, stimulating conversations and continuing education opportunities. Most importantly, though, they provide outstanding networking opportunities. PCMA’s Convening Leaders, taking place January 8-11 in Austin, is the place to reconnect with old friends and make plenty of new ones. During the show, attendees can network with over 4,000 industry leaders who understand the wide-ranging trials and triumphs of planning meetings in today’s rapidly changing environment. As you gear up for this year’s experience in Austin, here are five tips to remember to make the most of your networking opportunities.
It might seem obvious, but preparation is the key to success when navigating the trenches of networking at an industry event. Check out the event’s website and make note of any scheduled speakers or presenters who you want to meet. Prepare a short list of basic questions or conversation points for each person you want to speak with so you can hit the ground running if the opportunity arises. Another preparation tool that many forget about is social media. In today’s digital world, it’s inevitable that an event will have a social media hash tag, so take advantage of it. Start the conversation early and begin interacting with other attendees using the hash tag to prepare yourself and start building your networking schedule.
2) Go To Everything — Even If You’re Exhausted.
Again, another potentially obvious tip, but going to the show’s scheduled social events is the best way to up your chances of meeting and networking with industry leaders. You spent all day listening to presentations and attending sessions, so it can be tempting to hole up in your hotel room once the final bell rings, but making it out to the party or dinner is just as important as the day’s learning events. People are more relaxed during these social events and more willing to spend time chatting. It’s these events that can lead to the best introductions and connections, so make sure you are present.
3) Listen to Listen.
We’ve all seen that Stephen R. Covey quote floating around various social media channels: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” It’s an incredibly poignant thought that you should keep in mind while you’re networking. Be present when someone is talking to you and listen to what they are saying. Not only will you look (and be) more engaged, but you’ll be able to more easily recall the conversations you had with individual people and use those specifics to your advantage down the road.
4) Be Conversational.
Once it’s your turn to contribute to the conversation (after you’ve utilized your best listening skills), be personable. No one wants to be spoken at or recited to, so be conversational in your approach. Don’t boast or brag about your accomplishments or recite a script you memorized about yourself. Let your personality shine and you’ll get more genuine and lasting connections through your networking efforts.
5) Follow Up.
The follow-up might be the most crucial part to the networking process. You spent countless hours preparing, networking and making fabulous impressions, but it’s the follow-up that will make or break those new connections. Reach out to the people that you are most interested in forging relationships with within a few days of the end of the show while your conversation and face is fresh in their mind. Any longer than that and you run the risk of reduced memory and lost opportunity.
Networking at large industry events can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Just stay calm, be confident, smile bright and you’ll walk out with stacks of new contacts and opportunities. Now that you know how to network, make sure you register for PCMA Convening Leaders 2017.