Conferences crackle with potential. With hundreds of professionals and experts from myriad industries gathered in the same venue, it's your opportunity to impart knowledge, create connections and glean some wisdom. Attending conferences is a great way to become acquainted with like-minded people and familiarise yourself with specific industry trends and developments. Don't be nervous and get your confidence up – here's how to make the right connections at your next conference.
1. Do your research If you're looking to expand your connections and find potential business partners, you should be familiar with a number of names and designations of speakers and attendees. Conference websites will usually publish a list of their keynote speakers and delegates, which means you have no excuse for not being familiar with their essential details. Technology has made it so easy for us to find out more about other people; do a thorough search and thin through all the relevant information you can find. With that, you can create your personal conference hit list.
2. Reach outIf you have a specific list of people you would like to connect with during the conference, inform them about your interest beforehand instead of springing a request for coffee or a drink on them and risking their schedule already being full. If no contact details are mentioned on the conference website, try reaching out directly to their company or social profile. If they do not reply, you have nothing to lose as you'll still get to meet them at a later date.
3. Stand out When attending talks and seminars at the conferences, don't be afraid to get noticed by the speakers. Sit in the first few rows so you are visible to the speakers and moderators. Capitalise on Q&A sessions by asking intelligent, thoughtful questions – hopefully these will spark a future conversation. If you enjoyed the speaker's talk, let them know via email, but make sure to do it immediately after the lecture or during the network session so that continuity is maintained.
4. Don't stay awayPeople attend conferences to create fruitful partnerships and connections. While retiring to your hotel room after dinner may sound like a good idea, you risk missing out on valuable after-hours networking time. Most conferences schedule specific cocktail receptions for attendees to mingle and get to know one another, so make the most of that time. If you are prone to exhaustion from excess mingling, take a short break, but be sure to get back on your feet again.
5. Show interestMost people attending conferences will have a specific goal in mind, wanting to seal new business deals or promote their company and products. However, don't be one of these businessmen that only talks about themselves. Show interest and respect to your fellow conference attendees. Remember that every conversation and deal goes two ways.