Financial conferences present excellent opportunities for networking. They offer opportunities to meet new people who can help you move your career forward and they can help you strengthen your relationships with your existing contacts. Here's a guide on how to power network before, during and after the conference.
Learn the conference's agenda in advance. Identify the sessions your best prospects are likely to attend and put these meetings on your schedule. Some conferences publish the attendee list in advance, so review it to see if there are people you particularly want to connect with. Send a note to them via LinkedIn saying you'll be on the lookout for them.
Stay at the hotel where the conference is being held so you don't waste time traveling. If it's unaffordable, stay nearby. Give yourself time to decompress after travel and hotel check-in so you can arrive at the conference fresh. Ask for a wake-up call just in case your smartphone alarm fails you.
It's also advisable to think about attending with a buddy who can connect you with people he or she knows and help you ease into conversations.
Eat before you go to events where food is served. It's awkward to try to juggle a plate of food and a drink while you're shaking people's hands and exchanging business cards. Avoid food that's salty, sweet or greasy because it'll make you thirsty. Get to the events early. You'll feel an 'ownership' of the room by the time others arrive, something that's really useful if you tend to be shy. What's more, you'll find lots of people who aren't already engaged in conversations and are more easily approached than those who are busy.
Try to build a few really good relationships rather than exchange your business card with as many people as possible. The best way to connect with people is to show interest in them. Make your conversations about them, not about you. Learn what they're trying to achieve and think about how you can help them - with information or introductions, for example.
Don't launch into your elevator pitch; you're having a conversation, not making a presentation. Tailor what you say about yourself so it's appropriate to the discussion and don't offer your business card until you've established some kind of relationship. Keep your cards handy so you don't have to fish for them awkwardly in your pocket or purse.
Give the other person your full attention. Don't scan the room while you're talking. If you don't want to continue talking, exit gracefully. Be respectful of others' personal space. Don't tell jokes to people you don't know well because they may not share your sense of humor.
If you smile and look friendly you'll be welcomed as you approach people and you'll appear approachable by others. Your posture and movement should be confident and relaxed. You may do best by listening more and talking less; show you're listening with nods and responsive facial gestures. To remember a conversation, make some quick notes on that person's card.
Let people see you as an idea person - but don't be a know-it-all. You can make an impact on a roomful of people if you ask a panelist a question that shows real insight. Ask your question loudly, clearly, concisely and respectfully.If you want to meet a presenter, sit where you can approach the dais quickly after the presentation. And if you're not sure the session is right for you, sit in the back at the end of a row so you can leave without attracting attention.
Think about staying late after the conference's last session. You'll meet people who may be alone and looking for company.
When you're back home send a note to the people you met and want to stay in touch with. Comment further about your discussion and suggest an idea that will help them achieve their goals. Be the first to offer help; that'll make it much easier for you to ask for help later. Stay in touch via social media to keep the conversation going.
If you're writing to a speaker you weren't able to meet, put the title of the presentation in your message's subject field. Say something that's original and unexpected rather than saying you enjoyed the talk.
You've invested a lot of time and money in the conference, so make sure that you capitalize on the investment fully with a thorough and consistent follow-up campaign.
Bill Rosenthal has headed employee education businesses since 1986 and is chief executive of two sister companies: Communispond provides virtual and traditional classroom training for improved communications and sales. It has served 300 of the Fortune 500 companies since its founding in 1969. Logical Operations Inc., founded in 1982, offers more than 4,600 titles in its training curriculum library distributed to 107 countries worldwide. It serves businesses, government, commercial training centers, and academic institutions.