Attending a trade show, conference or event is a fantastic way to network, build partnerships and learn more about your industry. Even one-day events can cut into a small business budget (try an average of $607 per person, per day), making it imperative that attendees make the most of each networking opportunity.
Whether you are heading to your first or fiftieth event or conference in 2013, there are some actions you can take to best utilize the time and money spent. Consider the following ideas:
Wear a name tag.
Increase the likelihood that you will be remembered by wearing a simple, clear nametag. Some events have preprinted nametags or ones that you handwrite but invest in one of your own. Have your full name, company name and position printed on the nametag. If there is enough room, add a company logo or tagline.
Have business cards handy.
Pack more business cards than you will possibly need before heading to an event or conference. Have them on hand and ready to pass out. Rather than digging them out of a purse or pocket, invest in a simple business card holder. Also, before you go, make sure your business card is designed to make sure people remember you and can distinguish who you are from the hundred other people they met at the event. The last thing you want is for your business card to be a throwaway.
Divide and conquer.
If you are at an event with other people from your company, split up for optimal networking. It is much easier to stay within your comfort zone, but sticking close to people you already know will just squander other meeting opportunities. Look over an event agenda, or the floor plan of a trade show, and assign each attendee an area.
Stand in line.
Believe it or not, standing in line is a great way to spark conversations with new people. No one is expecting a sales pitch while waiting for the bathroom (and you really should not give one), so they are more likely to be open to a friendly chat. Do not be afraid to pass off a business card to your new friend before paying for your lunch or coffee.
The reason that you attend an out-of-office event is to network so use every opportunity to do it. Do not hang back by your booth, or in the shadows of the conference hall; be the one to start introductions. If you see someone hanging back from the rest of the group, go over and break the ice.
Thank the coordinators.
If you enjoy a conference or event, take the time to thank the people that put it all together. The accomplishments of these folks are often overlooked, making your kind words even more appreciated. Event coordinators and planners will often know some tricks and shortcuts to making the most of the experience and will be apt to share those with you. Do not miss out on this very important networking opportunity.
One last tip: When you get back to your office, organize all of the business cards and contact information you received and follow-up. Check in with the people you met while the event and you are still fresh in their minds.
What is your best event or conference networking tip?