Many meeting planners attend conferences for continuing education, but it can be difficult to leave behind the role of planner and assume the role of attendee. Approaching new people can be difficult because of obstacles we put in front of ourselves as well as those innate to a conference setting. As a result, many people leave events without making meaningful contacts.
It’s also a planner’s responsibility to provide opportunities for people to network. Until people are given permission to meet others, most feel self-conscious and remain within their comfort zones. Ideally, every conference should begin with intentional networking events in the beginning that encourage attendees to meet new people. Until icebreakers become a standard, however, attendees must take initiative.
Whether you’re shy or outgoing, figuring out how to meet people on your own is difficult. Many conferences provide registrants with a list of names of other attendees. Peruse companies and people, connect over social media prior to arriving and make arrangements to meet up before you get there or during the event. Research if the conference has a program for first-timers. Some places give a badge for newbies, prompting others to approach and welcome them. Connect with speakers ahead of time. Research them and meet up at the conference. Challenge yourself to walk up to someone standing solo and introduce yourself. Remember, singles like to mingle.
Being unprepared is easily overcome with strategy. Ask yourself a few questions to determine your goals. Why are you going? What kind of people do you want to meet? Are you looking for sales, business referrals, a mentor? Stating your objective will make it easier to find the right people.
Being in a group provides security, but it also can be a hindrance. If you do go with a group, plan goals and create a supportive outreach team beforehand. Get together for breakfast, but disperse during lunch, and meet up again for drinks later. There’s no need to be split the entire time, but utilize the conference time to meet new people. Introduce each other to one another’s acquaintances.
Becoming a Natural
How do you become someone who effortlessly connects with others? A trick is to not just approach people, but to make yourself approachable as well. There is nothing more beneficial than a smile and eye contact. A positive disposition is simple, and it makes people want to meet you. Many conferences supply badges, which unfortunately hang around the neck and land on the stomach—not prime placement for people to figure out who someone is. Bring your own badge and place it in an easy-to-see location, which makes you more accessible.
Once you are in a conversation, relate to the person you are talking with. Listening is crucial. Look him in the eye, smile, and make a connection. Ask genuine questions and find common ground. If you are really interested in people, they will want to continue to talk to you and eventually you will be the focus of the conversation.
Do not try to sell the starting point in a relationship. If a business interaction sounds promising, arrange a future time for that, but do not do it at the conference.
What you do after the conference is just as important as what you do prior. Schedule a time for follow-up. Whether by phone, email, lunch or social media—make it happen. Find a way to help your connection before you ask for a sale or a favor. Learn about them and give them the opportunity to know you and develop a relationship of trust. It can be as simple as sharing a resource or recommending a book.
Original article can be found here.