Networking and meeting new people can be a valuable part of attending events and conferences. However, schmoozing doesn’t come easily to everyone, and striking up a conversation with strangers can feel daunting and awkward. Whether you’re at Dreamforce now, or planning your next corporate conference, we’ve put together a few tips to get you well on your way to becoming a networking guru.
Get to sessions early
The downtime you have between speakers and sessions is often the best time to meet people. By arriving early, you give yourself time to snag a good seat and position yourself to strike up meaningful conversations with fellow attendees before the talks begin.
Sitting in the back row of a session can be quite beneficial. From there, you gain the strategic advantage of seeing everyone in the room. Who’s in the session? Are you trying to connect with a certain person? Also, if you’re in the back you can easily slip out to catch up to people at the snack bar or in the hallway for real conversations and networking opportunities without interrupting the session.
Plan ahead to meet new people
Setting a goal to meet a certain number of attendees on each day of the event will encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. Try bringing 20–25 business cards with you at the beginning of each day, and shoot for ending the day with no cards left. That said, of course the quality of conversations is more important than the quantity, and building a rapport and making meaningful connections is more valuable than introducing yourself everyone in sight. But, sometimes it takes an extra nudge of motivation to go out and strike up a conversation.
We’ve all been there: you meet some new folks, have a significant “I need to follow-up on this” conversation, then realize you’ve forgotten everyone’s names. Rather than kicking yourself later, develop a strategy to help you remember. Here are some tips to help get you started: introduce yourself, repeat names as you’re introduced, and follow-up by confirming names near the end of the conversation. If you find your memory to be too unreliable, write it all down! If you get business cards from the folks you’re meeting, jot down tidbits from each conversation. You’ll thank yourself later.
Now, what to say?
By now, you’re prepared to start the conversation. Here are a few conversation start-up ideas, as well as topics to stay away from. Before you know it, you’ll be a master of “the mingle.”
Networking is just one step in building strong professional relationships. As you refine your strategies, keep in mind the ways you can measure what’s working—and what’s not. To learn more about tactics and processes that might work for you, check out our white paper, Measure Your Impact: 5 key principles of analytics proficiency.