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The Best Conference Networking Tips

By Jen Dziura of DailyWorth

People go to conferences for various reasons: Gaining knowledge and insight, seeing a new city, having an adventure, impressing their boss, scoring a trip away from their children paid for by the company. And, of course, networking.

Naturally, the usual networking advice applies. Prepare a few conversation starters: “What did you think of the speaker?” is perfectly fine. Have your elevator pitch ready. Make sure to actually listen to other people’s elevator pitches and ask questions. A good one is, “What’s the hardest part of your job?”

Instead of trying to be constantly witty and interesting, try really listening to other people, getting their business cards, remembering your conversations (and what people are looking for) so you can follow up meaningfully later. Everyone is thinking about themselves, not you. Might as well make that work in your favor.

How else can you up your conference networking game? Here are five tips.

1. Do Your Online Homework

It’s nothing new to suggest that you look up the speakers—and sometimes the other attendees—before a conference and reach out to some online. Obviously.

But you can do better than that.

Even if you’re just a regular attendee, not a member of some inner circle, you can blog about your conference preparations, what you hope to learn from the conference, and—if you’ve attended the conference before—helpful hints for hotels, travel, discounts, what to pack, etc. How about a “What I Wish I Had Known Before My First #IndustryCon” post? Offer people information they can use, and you won’t have to give your elevator pitch—people will find you and thank you for telling them about that money-saving airport shuttle.

Of course Twitter is huge for conferences. Find out the conference’s hashtag and start using it well in advance: “Who’s going to #industrycon15? First time in Phoenix!”

Also try tweeting about why you want to network. For instance: “Anyone else at #industrycon15 in the extruded plastics field?” or “Who’s getting in Thursday? Drinks at hotel? #industrycon15”

Here, from HubSpot’s white paper, is a way to up your Twitter game:

“To keep yourself organized, create a Twitter list of all of the attendees that you find. Title the list: “People Attending #INBOUND14” (substitute the appropriate hashtag) and make it public. This way, the people who you add to the list will see that you’ve added them to the list, making you look like a networking superstar. People love to follow leaders, so you’ll open up your networking opportunities.”

Leave a message on the event’s Facebook page. If it feels self-serving to post on a page that doesn’t have a lot of interaction, suggest that the moderators start an introduction thread (and then be the first to post your introduction).

A lot of people are very protective of their LinkedIn connections, so it’s probably best to save your connection requests until after the conference, and then include a personal message with each one. But if the event has a LinkedIn group, you can leave your mark there during the weeks and months leading up to the conference.

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