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Tip of the Week: How to Become Well Connected

publication date: Dec 7, 2016
author/source: Marcel Garragha

How to Become Well Connected:

You look at the conference brochure and survey the list of keynote speakers, the various topic tracks, look at the schedule of other events and learning opportunities, and decide to invest your money or budgeted dollars on attending the event.

All of these criteria are valuable and good reasons to decide on which conferences to attend. Yet, when it`s all over, a conference, convention or other gathering of like-minded professionals is more than a place to soak up content – it`s also a great place (maybe an even better place) to network.

If you wonder if that is true you`ve either not attended many conferences or haven`t had a networking plan.

A networking plan is important because often the greatest learning and most interesting opportunities happen outside the scheduled sessions!

When you define an event solely by its workshop schedule you are missing a large opportunity that comes from the gathering people, experiences, knowledge and more. Along with all of the good personal and professional development reasons, when you have a better networking plan, you also will have more fun at the conference than you would have otherwise!

Here, then, are 11 ways you can network more effectively and easily at any conference or convention.

Decide to connect. Networking begins with a decision. Decide before you attend the event that you want to meet, learn from and serve new people. Make this a part of your objective for the event. In addition, decide how many new people you want to meet.

Be friendly. A good place to start, don`t you think? Whether you are more extroverted or introverted matters less than your decision and your initial behavior – which is to be friendly!

Get to sessions early. One of the best times to meet new people is at the start of a session. Besides, often the people who arrive early are also focused on having a great experience and are therefore good people to meet! You also immediately share something in common since you both picked the same session to attend.

Say hello first. It may be a part of being friendly, but I separate it because it`s a very important tactic. Be the one to say hello! Go first, initiate the conversation. Often others won`t do it, but are glad you did. Put your foot and hand forward first. Say hello!

Ask questions. Spend your time getting to know the other person. Don`t make it a barrage of questions, but ask them why they chose this session, where they work, what their goals are for the conference or something else that helps you actually get to know him/her. Asking these sorts of questions will get them talking and put both of you at ease. Besides, by asking questions you are giving yourself the best chance to learn from them!

Meet the speakers. You`ve picked the sessions to attend, why not build at least an initial relationship with the experts? And, when you go early (see above), it`s much easier to connect with a great speaker than after the session when everyone else wants to meet her/him too.

Ask for, and give, business cards. Business cards are the currency of the initial relationship, so have plenty and have them with you. Remember too that getting their card is actually more important than giving yours. Why? Because if you have their card, you can always initiate the next (or subsequent) contact.

Always eat with at least one other person. Eat with speakers, eat with people you meet in a session or strike up conversation with someone new. Meals are a great time to create relationships and extend conversation.

Find out how you can help the other person. As in any networking situation, get the focus off of you and onto the other person. Ask the kinds of questions that helps you understand what their needs are (hint – they`re almost always open-ended questions).

Be engaged and engaging. This is a bit of a summary idea, but it`s more than a repeat of what has been said. Don`t just make small talk; try to serve and to learn what their issues and challenges are. Ask great questions and listen to the answers and they will know you care.

Network with new people (don`t just hang out with who you came with). What is the point of spending all of your time at a conference with the people you already know? Split up; consciously choose different sessions. Everyone in your group can do what this article prescribes, and each of you invite people to an even larger dinner gathering!

I know there is no rocket science on this list. Yet, as a speaker at and participant in many conferences, I see far too few people doing these things. When you start by deciding to network and then apply the other ten items on this list, you will maximize not only your learning from any event you attend, but the amount of fun you have will go through the roof as well!


 By  Marcel Garraghan

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