Regardless of your industry, there seems to be a conference for just about every day of the week. From expos to industry conferences to casual trade-specific cocktail hours, there are more opportunities to network than ever. Yet, the sheer volume of events and attendees can make standing out in the crowd that much more difficult. It would be a shame to let this deluge of network building opportunities go to waste. So, how do you make the most of your next mega-meeting? Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of these opportunities and create a lasting impression.
First thing's first—approach networking with the correct mindset. If you think about it, at its core, networking is a self-serving activity. But you can’t approach it with only yourself in mind. Operating with this mentality means whomever you’re attempting to connect with will be less vested in the interaction than you. Instead of approaching a conversation with the goal of furthering yourself, try to find commonalities with whoever you are speaking with, and look for mutual benefits. Always have it in your mind to be a connector for others, and not just seek to procure connections for your own use. This mindset will help create sincere relationships with true bonds.
Be Well Prepared
Whether you’re sending a cold email to someone you’d love to grab coffee with, or are attending a dinner with someone you’ve been looking for a reason to speak to—do your homework. Make sure you know their work and career highlights so you can make thoughtful conversation and convey they aren’t just one of the masses you’re attempting to connect with. And, if you ever find your conversation in a lull—ask questions. People love to talk about themselves, and it’s an easy topic for them. Be inquisitive and you will end up learning even more about them.
It’s something that is so simple, yet bears repeating: Convey the message that you’re interested in whoever you’re speaking with—and this comes down to the universal language of body language. Smile, actively listen, make eye contact, and don’t let your eyes wander around the room as though you’re ready to move on to another conversation. Give your subject your full attention. I know this sounds like the stuff of elementary school—but you’d be surprised how many people forget these basic courtesies!
Keep the Connection
It takes time and effort to build relationships, so cherish the ones you have. Never go too long without sending a quick note or text. Whether it’s a holiday or birthday or just because of something that made you think of them—Never go dark! Maintain correspondence so that if/when there comes a time that you could use their help, you aren’t reaching out of the blue. What it boils down to is maintaining interest in the other person.
If there’s one thing to take away from these tips it’s this: Be genuine. That’s the only way to make connections that will last. People can sense it, and are much more likely to want to help you if you are.