You normally attend conferences and business events not just to gain more knowledge but also meet interesting people you would like to network with. In fact such events are great opportunities to strike up new business partnerships and explore exciting avenues.
But do you make a concerted effort to monitor how you interact with people at these places? This TechCrunch blog post says that most people don’t, and they should.
Interactions and introductions shouldn’t be left to chance and serendipity. It is just like making a serious presentation. Here are a few things you can do to effectively interact with people during conferences, workshops and business events:
Take your introduction seriously
First impression doesn’t always have to be the last one, but take your introduction very seriously. Plan out how you are going to introduce yourself to an influential person in your profession. It will help if you’re introduced by another person who knows this influential person. Timing is key here. Don’t catch somebody when he or she might be extremely busy or distracted. If the business event involves multiple days then take your time and introduce yourself gradually rather than simply making it into a make-it-or-break-it affair. Initially you can just exchange a couple of words or even smiles.
Influential people are normally busy people. It might be their work, it might be other people constantly pursuing them or they might be presenting papers and giving speeches. Understand that they are hard pressed for time. If possible, just try to get their business card so that you can send them any mail later on.
Don’t assume they know you or remember you
When you are approaching someone you met in a last business event don’t assume that he or she remembers you. People who constantly attend conferences and events keep on bumping into lots of interesting people and it becomes hard for them to remember each and everybody unless they are in constant contact. Approach that person as if you are meeting for the first time. Of course it doesn’t mean that you pretend that even if that person remembers you. Just act normal.
Different people attend conferences and business events for different reasons
Some are looking for knowledge, some are looking for business opportunities and partnerships, some are looking for new journalistic scoops, some are looking for some good media coverage for their business and some are looking for investors. Just because you’re there to network doesn’t mean that everybody empathises with you. Keep that in mind. The basic idea behind attending such events is becoming more visible and establishing new contacts. Very rarely real business culminates during the event. Establish as many contacts, realistically, as possible, without overwhelming people.
Pay close attention to their body language
Through their body language you can easily make out whether they are paying attention or they are distracted. This will tell you whether you really want to listen to you at that moment or not. If you find them distracted it is a good indication that it is not the right time to talk to them. Simply ask for their business card, bid a polite goodbye and move on. Don’t force them into focusing on you — this is always counter-productive.
Don’t try to be someone you are not. Just be yourself, and not just in an Adam- Sandler-flick manner. Act genuine with people. You are not there to make an artificial impression. Naturally you would like people to appreciate you, but it will be better if they appreciate you for what you really are rather than something you’re not.
Help people whenever you can
During conferences and business events people come from various places, sometimes even from different states and countries. They might need some help. If you can provide that help, then go ahead and do it. This way they will always remember you. It doesn’t mean missing the entire conference to run errands, but if somebody is looking for good accommodation, or a good cab service and if you have some knowledge regarding this, do share it with that person.
Keep in touch before and after the business event
Networking and interaction is not a one-time affair. Suppose after three months there is a big conference coming up and you will be attending it. Try to find out who all are going to be there. Try to connect with them using Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Again, you should do this without overwhelming them. Just gently start participating in the conversations they are already engaged in.