This past week I had the pleasure of attending the Impact Texas conference in Austin, Texas. The line up of speakers was fantastic and the list of attendees included some influential entrepreneurs and investors in Texas and from across the nation. I always enjoy attending a conference because of the networking opportunities.
I often ask people why they choose to attend a conference. A chief reason is, of course, because you want to listen to panelists and speakers discuss interesting subject matter, but just as widely stated by people is the idea that they want to attend a conference to network. It is of course, an important object to have when attending a conference.
At a conference, whether Impact Texas or SXSW, I choose to forego attending speaker panels, and do the bulk of my networking in the hallways. I like to follow these quick tips when working a conference that I hope you will adopt (at least partially), to maximize the connections you can make and win at networking:
1) Find Your High Traffic Areas: The best connections happen at events, not when people are speaking, but in the hallways and at break times, on trade show floors and at charging stations (someone using their phone a lot needs to recharge often – people who use their phone a lot are frequently decision makers). Find your high traffic areas that are not simply thoroughfares, but places people also will stop for a few moments.
2) Reach Out To Recent Attendees: What is the agenda? Where will you be? The more you know what you have in front of you the better. One great tactic is to reach out to people who have been to the conference before. Ask them how you can make the event most effective. I love this mostly when it’s a matter of breaking the ice with someone I have never met. Maybe a person in charge, or on a panelist. Ask them if they have tips for where to meet the most decision makers. People love being flattered and be seen as an authority, and this way you have already begun networking even before you get to the event.
3) Read Name Tags: My favorite feature of a well done conference is that name tags feature, not just a name, but also a company and/or a place where that person is from. What a GREAT built in icebreaker! If you want to meet someone, and you have no idea what to say, start looking for companies or cities. Say hello and ask someone about his or her company (“What is Acme Co.?”) or what it’s like living in his or her city (“How is Denver this time of year?). Instant conversation starter that requires very little effort.
Good luck at your next conference, and if you have ideas on how else to work a conference, let us know!