Attending conventions in Las Vegas and other cities around the U.S. is not only a great place to learn about your industry, but it’s also a great place to make critical connections. That is, if you know how. Networking is not as easy as it sounds. Networking at a convention is a subtle art form. Here are eight tips for networking your way to great contacts.
Get To the Mixer Early
Smaller crowds can actually make it easier to network. By arriving early you have a better chance of making a good first in impression before the event becomes a sea of changing faces. It will also be easier to hear and connect with other individuals. Being early means you can also form an informal welcoming party for new arrivals, giving you an excuse to talk to those who arrive later.
Quality is Better Than Quantity
Making a personal connection with people is important. Randomly handing out cards or hyper-mingling (only speaking to someone long enough to introduce yourself and then moving on) will not help you develop the kind of relationships you are looking for.
Do Your Research
Find out who is going to the event and look them up on GooglePlus or LinkedIn. Find out a bit about their work before you arrive. However, keep it professional. It’s ok to take mental notes on occupations, but a bit creepy if you start referencing their personal lives.
There are a number of times people mention their names at conventions. One excellent example is during the question and answer segment of individual presentations or workshops. Write down the name of any individual you’d like to meet and ask around for them at the mixer. When you meet, you can refer to the question or comment the individual had earlier.
Ask for Introductions
Ask event coordinators or more experienced networkers for introductions. If you know who you would like to meet, you can ask the host if he or she could introduce you. If you are not sure who you should talk to next, bring it up in your current conversation: “So, have you met any interesting people here, today?” If they mention anyone in particular, ask for an introduction.
Location! Location! Location!
Position yourself near the bar, buffet, or information table, anywhere that will have high traffic. If you feel a little awkward about walking up to strangers, find a spot where they will walk up to you. Ok, so they are walking up to get the free drink, food, or information, but you’ll be in the right spot to start a conversation.
Prepare an introduction, but not a sales pitch. Who are you? What do you do? Why are you there? You need to be able to articulate this quickly and clearly so you can get the conversation started and help everyone feel at ease. Remember you are making a personal connection.
Once you’ve made contact and introduced yourself, don’t dominate the conversation. Some people do this when they get nervous, they imagine themselves charming and engaging, as they entertain their captive audience. Listen twice as much as you speak. When you do speak take the opportunity to ask questions. This will show you’re listening and you’re interested.
Networking doesn’t have to be a task, with practice it can be fun.