How Strategic Networking Can Deliver Big Results at Your Next Conference

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The best entrepreneurs I know spend time concentrating on deepening their knowledge to improve themselves and their prospects. They listen to podcasts, read books, and seek the advice of others.

They also make attending conferences a priority. Business partnerships and educational opportunities offer a unique space to not only delve deeper into your own organization, but also connect with others. It is in the midst of these connections that I have found the most benefits. Intentional networking with fellow attendees has resulted in comprehensive customer relationships and has provided exponential value to my business.

Conferences are a powerful way to gather information that can be applied to your business, but can also be used for much more. Here are three ways I’ve learned to connect as a professional in a conference setting:

Related: How Networking is Necessary for Effective Entrepreneurship

1. Come prepared

Strategic and intentional networking is nothing without a plan. When preparing for a conference, consider:

  • What kind of connections do you expect to make?

  • What issues are affecting your business, and how can this conference help you resolve them?

  • What are your goals for attending the conference? Education? Brand awareness?

  • Is your brand message ready?

  • Who are the key people I want to meet? How will I approach them?

  • Should I attend all possible sessions or try to secure individual meetings with important salespeople and mentors?

To get started, make sure your pitch with a lift is ready to start. Research has shown that brands often create content for their own needs and desires, and ultimately do not listen to what their audience really wants. Your brand message is the first exposure that potential connections have with your organization at a conference. Make sure this is what they want and need, instead of everything about you.

From here, look at your goals for attending the conference. Is it for networking? Education? Both of us? If you use the event as a learning experience, map out the sessions you want to attend, as well as the questions to ask the presenter. Remember that even a learning experience can be a reason for networking. Take the time to introduce yourself to the speaker later. Invite them over for coffee to talk more about a particular topic.

If you want to turn it into just a networking event, take a look at the booth exhibitors in advance and prepare for off-schedule events, such as happy hours or sponsored meetings. If you can secure a list of attendees, find people to connect with and contact them in advance.

If there are no events after the conference, plan your own and invite a list of key contacts. Not only will you create your own connections, but you will add value by introducing others. Making a proactive game plan will allow you to maximize your conferencing experience.

2. Look for connection opportunities

The conference is full of opportunities to learn and grow as a professional. From sharing challenges to good practices, the value of the experiences of others cannot be underestimated.

However, there is also the opportunity in a less formal environment to obtain this type of knowledge. Critical and meaningful conversations can often take place outside the conference environment, during social hours, group dinners, and even networking rooms.

The point is to look for opportunities as they arise. Intentional networking allows for open dialogue and encourages important conversations in a less controlled environment. When you meet people individually, you can share more information about your brand and strategy, as well as a new connection and goals.

There have been multiple opportunities at conferences where I have found great sponsors for SubSummit, simply to be present during break times or at out-of-hours events. You never know when the opportunity will arise.

Related: 4 Ways to Invest More Deep in Your Business

3. Overcome your fear of failure

As you strive to make connections, there will be times when a possible agreement will not be resolved. This is the nature of running a business. Knowing that you will fail should not scare you. Instead, it should motivate you and empower you to learn from this missed opportunity.

Maybe it’s your pitch with a lift. How can you better refine your message to have more impact when networking? It may not be the right time for this person to sponsor your event or become an investor. What can you do to make them memorable when they are ready?

Failure is inevitable, so embrace it and move on. The only thing worse than failing is never trying.

Related: Successful leaders share how to get the most out of networking

Networking in a conference environment gives your brand face and energy, creates community, and creates connections. Conferences are a great way to grow your business. With a little forethought and preparation, you can make your participation in the event a success that goes far beyond Zoom meetings or being in the office.

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