Conference Prep: Don't Forget Networking Opportunities

10/26/2017 - By Camille Heckmann

It may seem fairly intuitive to register for a conference and make travel arrangements.  But, many people don’t realize that conferences aren’t just about the learning experience.  Seasoned conference pros know that every conference is an opportunity to network, whether you go to attend, exhibit, or both. Here are some networking tips to consider before, during, and after the conference:

Before You Go

The success or failure of your networking endeavors are often determined before you ever get to the conference. Preparation and planning are the keys to success when it comes to making the most of your time.

  1. Request a copy of the attendee & exhibitor list as well as schedule of events. Do this two months or more before the conference. Review list for current clients, prospective clients, and fellow vendors. 

    Don’t Panic: If unable to obtain a list, review social media for past attendees and their respective companies. The more you know about who is attending, the less you will initiate tedious discussion.

  2. Identify key individuals you would like to connect with while you are there. Plan an event, dinner, or even just breakfast or coffee for those individuals. Utilize conference events as free opportunities to meet!

    Questions to consider: Will this be the first meeting I’ve had with this individual?  Would a one-on-one coffee meeting be more appropriate, or is what I want to discuss better suited for a group setting?  

  3. Have a list of attendees or key individuals readily accessible. This can help you to keep track of those you’ve met and want to meet while you are there.
  4. Bring business cards and name tag.  These items are crucial but can often be forgotten.

While You Are There

You’ve arrived at your conference venue and are now on the clock. Time is precious, so make sure you are taking advantage of every opportunity to network and make the most of your meetings or exhibit.

  1. Dress professional-casual.  You never know who you’ll meet while waiting in the airport or checking-in at the hotel.

    “I saw a prospective client in the airport when traveling for a conference.  I looked like I had rolled out of bed ready to stumble into a college class.  I lacked the confidence to fully engage in discussion with the prospective client due to my attire.”

  2. Prepare talking points for all scheduled meetings.
  3. Write down facts and info about the individual on their business card soon after you receive it.
  4. Remember, the best networking is mutually beneficial.  You may be able to provide them excellent service or pass along their resume to your HR department one day. 

After You Get Back

Just because the conference is over, doesn’t mean your work is done! Now is the time to take the contacts and information you gathered at the conference and put it to use.

  1. Update the attendee list with info for key individuals you identified.  
  2. Send follow-up emails after the conference, and stay in touch.  Possibly send an article on a subject the person discussed as an item of interest. 
  3. Make a list of what went well and what to improve for the next conference. It will be here before you know it!

So remember, conferences are a pool of contacts not just a learning or training experience.  Use the time wisely to network.  Be prepared before making calls or holding meetings.  If you are prepared and continually engage in networking opportunities the more confidence you will build!  If any questions, please email me.

About the Author | Camille Heckmann

Camille is a senior in the Audit & Assurance Services Department of Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund. She is also a part of the firm’s Financial Institutions Consulting Group, with particular experience providing audit services to financial institutions. Camille has been working with financial institutions since 2008.

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