Conference Networking Done Wrong

Many of us have attended amazing conferences where there were excellent presenters, awesome people from all walks of life to network with, and just a fantastic vibe to the whole experience. Just as prevalent were observably terrible networking mistakes committed left and right. Many don’t even recognize they’ve committed a few themselves so let’s discuss these “mistakes” and up your game.

Mistake # 1: Following a speaker right after his or her session has ended.

This is by far the worst mistake of them all, however easy it is to recognize the objective, you just need a new approach. You want to make an impression on the speaker by introducing yourself and telling that person all about your business.

Here’s the problem: There are 51 other people who have the exact same intention. When observed from a step back it looks like a pack of vultures (including you!) circling a dead carcass (the speaker). Seen from an objective standpoint, clearly not the impression you were going for.

I would feel bad for both you and the speaker because the speaker is not going to remember you from the 51 other individuals. That speaker will probably tell you to email him or her, email their assistant, or email someone else on their team and you’ll most likely never hear from any of them.

A better, alternative approach would be to first, write down or make a mental note of any pearls of wisdom the speaker shared that stood out for you, or some things that you liked about that person … anything that will help you remember who they are. Second, look for the speaker later on in the conference. Start off your conversation with a compliment and a question before disclosing anything about your startup or business. This demonstrates to the speaker that you really paid attention to what he or she said, and are interested enough in him or her to probe further with an insightful question. This will help you earn serious brownie points with the speaker, opening the future for all kinds of possibilities.

Mistake # 2: Handing out your business card to everyone.

Giving a business card to someone you just met feels cold and impersonal. It is pretty much the equivalent of a receipt for your networking transaction.networking

So, what to do?  Here’s a crazy idea: actually take out your phone and exchange contact information with the person you just met. Take down their phone number and email, and find a way to keep the conversation going after the conference is over. The one exception to this is if you are talking to someone that is clearly five rungs (or more) above you on the power ladder. It’s probably better to ask for their card as that person might be a little wary of giving their contact info away.

If a high-powered-executive doesn’t have a card or asks you for one, then you have an open opportunity to pull out your phone and input their name and email into your contacts. I recommend sending a follow-up email within a reasonably short period, not the next day but after a week would be fine. Way too many people will try to follow up immediately after an event, and it’s easy for your email to get drowned out by others. Focus long term and wait patiently for the traffic to die down before you send an email.

Mistake # 3: Sharing too much too soon

Yes, many times the only reason you’re at a conference in the first place is to tell the world about your startup or business (of course if you have a booth at a conference, you can ignore this mistake).

However, consider that at every conference, people are trying to get the same message across: LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT MY STARTUP/BUSINESS! AREN’T WE WONDERFUL? PLEASE WORK WITH US! An understandable approach to some extent since it is a conference and everybody’s doing it, right?

Let’s look at a similar scenario. Imagine for a second you are single and at a club. If a member of the opposite sex came up to you and started talking about how great they are and how amazing it would be if you dated him/her, would your first thought be:

Wow, I’m so lucky that I met this person. It’s a match made in heaven! OR..

Yikes! Please get me away from this cocky guy/girl. He/she clearly not interested in ME.

It’s often the least flattering response, and the same applies to meeting others at conferences. When you are incessantly self-promoting your startup or business, you come off as needy and selfish.

Instead, strike up an honest conversation. Ask people about their business, their challenges, and their goals. When people believe that you actually appreciate them and are not just treating them like a transaction, they will ask you about what you’re up to and how you can mutually help each other.

Remember the goal here is to treat every new interaction like a first date. Take your time to get to know the person, and you will go a lot further than if you immediately blurt out random facts about your startup.

Things you can do to enhance your conference experience:

  1. Get to know the people who are a part of the host organization(s).

The best way for you to make connections with high-profile speakers is to make friends with the individuals who produce the conference. These people also have a treasure trove of relevant information and advice, and are usually disregarded or avoided.

  1. Ask this question to high-profile people you want to associate with.

“Assuming I don’t have an affiliation to someone you know who can make an introduction, what is the next best way to get a meeting with you?”

Whether you have found the perfect mentor or not, Maxsys Solutions is still here to help you find an IT job in Dallas-Fort Worth. Give us a call today.