Networking is a fundamental skill in business. If the thought of working a room makes you work up a sweat, you’re far from alone. Most of us are shy by nature, but pushing through and getting out of your comfort zone will do wonders for your professional and personal growth. Networking leads to new business opportunities and new relationships, and it’s paramount to your career and business.
Networking is a process that starts before the conference and continues during and after.
These are five of my favorite tips.
1. Introduce yourself to people effectively
Practice your “elevator pitch” - a statement, usually 15 seconds or less, that highlights the key services you provide: what type of translation services you specialize in, for example. You will be asked these questions, so rehearsing your answers ahead of time will help you craft an impactful and succinct response.
2. Show up early
Conversations that take place at a conference early are often more relaxed and casual and can be game changers. Often the high performers and speakers show up early as well. When it is less crowded, you have a better chance of meaningful conversations.
Stand near the registration table, entrance, or food area. These are the places where people congregate. If you are attending the conference solo, try to pick out and band together with other solo attendees. By initiating a bond early in the conference, you can establish a friendly connection that can carry throughout the entire conference. That person will likely be so thrilled you extended the invitation, that they will be your pal throughout the day.
3. Net-give vs. Net-work - express interest in others
Be more interested in other people than yourself. Listen to the other person and be authentic. If you are a bit nervous going to a conference, taking the spotlight off you and onto the other person can do wonders for your jitters. When you're talking to someone, focus on that person's answers to your questions and not on anybody else in the room. Limit your own talking and encourage the other person to talk. Use eye contact and body language to show you are listening.
Here are a few icebreaker questions:
4. Learn how to excuse yourself gracefully
There will be times when a conversation loses steam or when someone you're networking with doesn't turn out to be someone you want to connect with or perhaps they are not interested in you. At a conference there is limited time and lots of people to meet. You are there to make meaningful connections. When you need to move on, excuse yourself politely, thank the person for his or her time, and continue your networking with other members of the conference. Other suggestions:
Introduce your conversation partner to another person. Then graciously excuse yourself for the bathroom/a drink.
Have them introduce you to someone. You can ask, “Do you know anyone in here doing XYZ?”
5. Stay connected after the conference
This is one of the most important conference networking tips. Follow up with each person you meet after the conference. Staying in touch is a crucial part of networking.
Follow up with a pleasant email - or even better - send a letter and include something like a trinket from your home country. Years later, I still have people coming up to me referring to the “koala key chain” I sent them. They remembered me and referred opportunities to me.
Remind them what you spoke about, offer them a link to an interesting article, connect on LinkedIn, or use the telephone and have a chat.
Use Twitter and Facebook throughout as well as after the conference. This will help with solidifying connections.
Bonus tip: Have fun and don’t take networking too seriously.