A couple times a year, I head to a blogging conference. It’s considered a business trip for me because I blog for a good chunk of my living. And, of course, while I am in a fun new town, attending workshops and speeches that (hopefully) help me improve, I also make connections.
Meeting up in person, and making connections, is an important part of any business. Indeed, if you want your career to go anywhere, you need to build connections, and have a career network to draw on. Before you get on that plane, make sure you are ready to network at your business conference:
1. Know Who You Are, And Be Yourself
The best thing you can do  is know who you are, an then be yourself. Understand your personality, and what you have to offer. Then, be yourself. If you are shy, you don’t want to force yourself into being a crazy party-animal extrovert. While it’s important to come out of your shell a little bit, there is no reason to be someone else altogether. Be comfortable with who you are, and then let others see the great person that you are.
2. Know What You Do, And Be Ready To Explain
Think about what you do, and be ready to explain it to others. A really good exercise is to create an “elevator pitch” for yourself. This is a 15-second personal statement. It should cover who you are, and briefly state what you do. Do your best to use dynamic language, and have back-up information prepared in the event that someone asks you to elaborate.
3. Have Business Cards On Hand
Be ready to pass out business cards. And remember, business cards don’t have to be printed on paper. There are electronic business cards now. You can create a digital card that can be easily exchanged between mobile devices. These business cards can be a great way to help someone remember you. And, don’t forget to collect business cards. When you get back to your hotel room, write down something on the back of the business card to help you remember that person, or jot down something you talked about. A few days later, after the conference is over, you can touch base with those you plan to keep in your network.
4. Shake Hands Firmly and Make Appropriate Eye Contact
Be sure that you come across as confident and ready to network. Shake hands firmly, and make eye contact. Speak clearly, and introduce yourself. Part of networking is making a good first impression, and you can’t do that if you are mumbling at your toes. It can take practice to get the hang of this, but you want to put in the effort it takes. It’s well worth it.
Don’t be so anxious to share everything about you that you forget to listen. You need to take a turn actively listening to those you meet. Not only does is show an interest in them, but you might actually learn something. One of the most valuable skills is listening.
Do you have networking tips for conferences?