Conference season is just around the corner, and you know what that means: networking. For some, networking is easy—it just comes naturally. For others, though, networking can be scarier than watching a scary movie in the dark, alone. It’s important to realize though that in order to run a successful business, networking is essential.
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert at heart, here are six tips for networking better this conference season.
Show Up Fashionably Early
Most people don’t want to be the first one to arrive at a networking event, but the reality is it’s much better to do so.
“As a first attendee, you’ll notice it’s calmer and quieter—and people won’t have settled into groups yet,” explains Colleen Debaise of Entrepreneur.com. “It’s easier to find other people who don’t have conversation partners yet.”
Moral of the story: resist the urge to show up late! Remember, the early bird gets the worm (and the most powerful connections).
Break the Shyness Barrier
If you’re more of an introvert, don’t worry. You can still be successful at networking events! In order to make the most of the day, plan some ice-breakers ahead of time.
“Doing a bit of homework before an event can help anyone come up with good questions to ask,” says Christina DesMarais, Contributor at Inc.com. “Find out who will be at an event, and research the people you want to meet by looking them up on Google or LinkedIn.”
That way, you’ll know what their interests are ahead of the game so you can craft questions to get the conversation going.
Don’t Oversell Your Company
Networking is all about relationship building, so keeping your conversations light and informal is a must. A person doesn’t want to try and be sold something immediately after meeting. If someone enjoys your company and conversation, it’s more likely they’ll want to do business with you later.
“If a potential customer does ask you about your product or service, be ready with an easy description of your company,” explains Debaise. “Before the event, create a mental list of recent accomplishments, such as a new client you’ve landed or project you’ve completed. That way, you can easily pull an item off that list and into the conversation.”
Lend a Helping Hand
Once you’ve started and maintained a great conversation, end it with asking them how you can be of help to them. Offering help is something that’s actually done on the rare occasion when at networking events, so most people will be surprised but appreciative.
“While the person may not have an answer for you that night, they might have an idea later,” explains Forbes. “Always close by saying something like, ‘If you need anything, please reach out to me or connect via LinkedIn’ and present your business card.”
Practice Makes Perfect
The more you network, the easier it will become—but that means you have to go to events more than once a year. You don’t have to physically go to conferences to practice your networking skills, test them out around the office or at a party where you don’t know too many of the guests well.
“If I’m heading to the water cooler and I see somebody I know, I might stop for a minute or two and ask that person ‘How is your day going? How was your weekend?’ just to stay in that networking practice,” explains Inc.com.
Going to networking events is essentially useless if you don’t follow up with all of the connections you made. Remember to be a good listener, as remembering what certain people are interested in will help when crafting up your follow-up emails.
“If you really want to build a networking relationship, don’t send a generic ‘nice to meet you’ email,” says Dave Roos of Money: HowStuffWorks blog. “Dig up something that’s useful to them…you’ll feel like less of a self-promoter and make a lasting impression in the process. And if you get a response, offer to meet them up for coffee.”
In order to make the most of the upcoming conference season, be sure to use these tips! Remember to take a deep breath, listen, and most of all have fun!