Attending conferences might be one of the best things you can do for your career. You’ll learn about the latest developments in industry trends, gain some new skills, and make all kinds of new connections. And as an added bonus, there’s usually free travel and meals involved!
It’s no secret that meeting new people can be super stressful. Not everyone is a natural born networker, and conferences can heighten the pressure to put your most extroverted self forward. The toughest part about networking during a conference is that moment when you walk into a room and it feels like everyone already knows each other and you’re the odd man out. How do you immerse yourself into an ongoing conversation between colleagues?
Before getting involved in higher education fundraising, I was employed in the tech market and attended hundreds of conferences and events around the world. I used to really struggle with putting my best self forward while networking, so I decided to do a little research of my own to increase my skills. After reading books from top networking experts, such as Keith Ferrazzi and Dr. Ivan Misner, I learned a few foolproof tips and tricks to help even the most nervous and shy conference attendee become a confident networking pro! Try it out and who knows — you might even end up with an exciting new career opportunity. [source]
- Do Your Research
Look up the presenters, go through their websites, and read any books they’ve published. Doing a bit of research will help you figure out what to say when you introduce yourself to them — you’ll know what skills and connections to bring up during the conversation!
- Attend Social Events
Most conferences will have social dinners and cocktail hours for attendees to take part in. Don’t let shyness hold you back — these are great gateways into making new connections. A quick tip: Never hold your drink in your right hand. You’ll need it when it’s time to give an introductory handshake, and you don’t want to fumble with your glass or put out a cold clammy hand for another professional to shake!
- The Early Bird Gets The Worm
Arrive at each event 10-15 minutes early for a chance to meet the presenters. Keynote speeches and breakout sessions are an excellent time to network and extend your professional circle.
- Work The Room
When you walk in the room look for groups that are not closed. These groups are not engaged in a full conversation and will welcome the change in dynamics of the conversation if you join. Closed and open groups are illustrated in the graphic below. (if you are interested, here is a great slideshare on networking like a pro)
- Be A Connector
Make notes on who you’re meeting and what they do, and find ways to connect your new contacts to each other. This is called “closing the triangle”, and it’s a great way to build stronger connections amongst your professional circle.
- Add on Linkedin, Follow on Twitter
Don’t forget to add people you meet on Linkedin! Conferences and face-to-face interactions are a great way to build a presence on the site. Be sure to reach out within a few days following the conference — if you wait too long, you run the risk of being forgotten.
If you’re attending any of the Case District Conferences this year, I’d love to chat about this topic and learn tips from you in person. And I’d love to share with you how schools like Oxford, Cambridge, and American University are shaking things up in their advancement offices through online giving. Book a meeting with me -> click here, and come by our Funderful booth.