Networking effectively while at conferences is no easy task to do, especially for those of us who are not naturals here. How can you avoid those awkward situations, have meaningful conversations and build valuable connections with people that matter? With few days left until How to Web Conference 2015, we’re grateful that Colette Ballou, Founder & President of Ballou PR, has kindly accepted our invitation to write this guest blog post and share with us valuable insights on the matter. Follow her tips to enhance your networking experience at How to Web and beyond!
Conferences are awkward situations. You want to make the most of your time – chances are that you paid not only for the entrance fee, but also for the flight and the hotel. But why do we fail to make meaningful connections at conferences? Because we forget the perspective of the very people we are trying to connect with.
Conferences are excellent opportunities to further your business goals, be it funding, partnerships, sales, coverage by the media, or an invitation to speak at the conference itself next time. So have these clearly in mind when approaching each person. Know what you need to get from that conversation, and realize that you’re likely not going to get it right there. But you can get yourself further down the line with an invitation to connect later.
And here are some tips you should bear in mind when connecting with people:
- Be thoughtful of speakers, VCs and journalists, they get leapt upon at conferences. Say your piece, then let them be.
- Get the business card. Give yours. Connect on your favourite social network, or even send an email afterwards.
- Always re-introduce yourself to people. Never say “Do you remember me?” It puts the other person in a terrible position.
- When someone re-introduces themselves to you, don’t make them feel stupid for possibly not remembering you. They are trying to help you by giving you their name. Don’t repay kindness by making them feel stupid.
- Don’t approach someone when they are in the middle of something, for example, when they are mobbed, trying to get off a stage, or trying to leave the venue.
- Please accept when the other person has to close the conversation. Watch the other person for cues, such as body language, on when to wrap things up. Make it easy for them and allow them to go.
- Think twice before touching anybody. It doesn’t create closeness or confidence where there was none; most times, it’s off-putting.
- Bring a wingman, or better yet, a wingwoman. They can make sure you get into and out of conversations smoothly, help you with names, etc.
- Building on the wingman concept: an introduction is gold. Get a mutual friend or colleague to introduce you – it’s more powerful.
- Remember that the point is not to get the lion’s share of the other person’s time – the point is to connect in a meaningful way. Do so quickly and effectively.
- Have a clear “ask” if you are trying to speak to someone, and get to the point. Don’t just say, “We should have coffee.”
- Better yet, have a “give” instead of an “ask” – “I’d be happy to give you feedback/introduce you to an angel/advise you on your strategy.”
Bear these tips in mind when connecting with people to make sure you reach your business objectives while at conferences. And follow @coletteballou for other gems and valuable tips.
Meet Colette this week at How to Web Conference 2015, where she’s going to take the Startups Stage to teach you how to ask for what you want & need, and get it! And hurry up: we’ve only got 5 tickets left and we’re going to be sold out soon: get your ticket now & join the innovators community!