How to own networking at a business conference

networking - business conferencenetworking - business conference
networking - business conferencenetworking - business conference


How to own networking at a business conference

If you’ve been assigned the task of attending the business conference that everyone else in the office was trying to dodge, it’s time to celebrate. You’ve got an amazing opportunity to take a few days off work and, more importantly, network like there’s no tomorrow. This will help the business you represent and possibly even your own business ventures.

Networking in this context is the interaction between business professionals communicating in the hope of developing some sort of mutually beneficial relationship. Now we’re going to look at all the ways you can be the best networker at the conference.


What it takes to be a great networker

First of all, you need to have people and social skills. That would really help you out. If you get anxious in social settings and large groups of people, then you probably shouldn’t have volunteered to be here. If you struggle with the whole human interaction thing and knowing what is appropriate or professional, consider doing an hr management course before you go.

Regardless, here’s what you need.

  • To be recognisable: You need to stand out from the crowd of suits somehow if you want to be remembered (which you do). Find a brightly-coloured something to wear throughout the duration of the conference that will draw attention or be a possible conversation starter. Then if people you meet struggle to remember your name, they can at least identify you by your scarf or pocket handkerchief.  
  • To listen: Yes, you’re there to promote your business, but so is everyone else. And when building a network, people want to know that you also have an interest in what they have to say and, more importantly, that you pay attention to what they’re sharing with you. It will help you later on when it comes to following up.
  • To be authentic: This is the caring part of being a great listener that we just mentioned. It’s so important that it needs to be said more than once. Be authentic in your interactions and be interested in the information that’s coming your way if you would like them to also be interested in what you’ll have to say when the time comes.
  • To be positive: Going to a conference out of obligation and making that obligation visible on your face and in your interactions is only going to put people off. Positivity attracts and you’re here for that exact purpose. Put on a smile and find the positivity in learning and engaging with new people.


About the event

Now that you know what to do when you get there, it’s time to back-track and find out what there is to do to prepare for this conference. You need to do your research.

What is the conference about? Who are the key speakers? Who are the “opening acts”? what are the times of the activities throughout the event? Who are the delegates that you and your business are interested in networking with? what are your goals for this conference and what is your conference schedule? Those kinds of things.

Get to know the venue before you get there and plan strategic walkabout routes that are likely to have you “bump” into important people on your networking list.


Cards at the ready

When you’re there, you’re going to need to have your business cards at the ready.

Call it old-fashioned and what not, but business cards are important at conferences. Feel free to alternate between your phone and cards though. Not everyone will be keen to exchange numbers straight to the phone (it does take longer than just handing over a card and watching them place it in their pockets – make sure they do this).

But the same thing goes for your business cards as it does for you – make it memorable and instantly recognisable.


The follow-up

Probably the most important part of any conference, ironically, only occurs after the conference, the follow-up. This is where all your skills and effort come to play.

Contact the people you networked with and find out how they’re doing. More importantly, ask them about how their projects are going. Remember all that listening and being interested we were talking about? This is why it’s important. This is where you establish the relationships you initiated at the conference and, depending on how personal and efficient your follow-up is, you’ll either be building or breaking your network.

Send them an email, then give them a call. Or follow and connect with them on LinkedIn and interact with their posts. When you talk to them, remind them of who you are by referencing your recognisable accessory and immediately focussing on the conversation you had together.


networking - business conference