Conference planning often includes networking sessions. I dreaded going to networking events when I first started in the meetings and events industry. See, while communication was a large part of my job task, I literally dreaded going to networking events unless I knew many of the attendees. Of course, as one moves on in their career and especially after you get to know people within the industry, networking events are not as scary as they once seemed.
Conference Planning Tips on How to Network
I even went through a period of my career where I didn’t want to tell people what it was I did for a living. You see, in my mind, I wanted people to get to know me for who I was not what I did. Often when you are at networking events and there are suppliers present, once they know that you’re in a position to purchase, you all of a sudden become their new very best friend. At networking events what I would focus on during conversations would be current events or issues that would affect the meetings and events industry. But ultimately you would he asked what it is that you did for a living. I eventually realized that there was no malice intended in their question and that they were just being legitimately curious.
I also found it very hard to approach strangers and just start talking about current events. I found those particular situations awkward. And I also began noticing that I wasn’t alone with this feeling. I would scan the room where I could easily spot people that were uncomfortable in this situation.
Here are a few tips that have helped me over the years:
- When you first enter an event, try and find people that you may have had an encounter with in the past and approach them with a very casual “hello how are you doing”.
- If food and beverage was part of the conference planning, make a few comments as you’re selecting your food items or getting a drink from the bar. Quite often that can initiate a short-term conversation.
- If there were potential clients in the room, I would always make a point not turn the conversation into any type of the sales pitch. Keep a networking event light and casual and the business side of your relationship will build from that.
- Scan the room and look for people that seem to be in the same boat as you. They will be very grateful that you approached them as their awkwardness probably was preventing them from approaching you.
- The one thing to remember is that 99% of the people in the room have the same work interests that you do. So casually talking about the industry without making controversial statements can be an icebreaker.
Conferences provide delegates with an opportunity to learn through educational sessions and networking opportunities. Networking can be intimidating especially if you consider yourself to be a shy person. But, by focusing on the reason you are attending the conference in the first place, networking can actually be something that provides you valuable information to help further your career. My best advice is to approach networking with an open mind and remember that almost everybody else in the room had the same feeling as you did at one point in their career.