DEVelop your networking skills
Heapcon’s guide to successfully network at conferences
While conferences are often remembered for being a lot of fun or for the intense and lively debates, these types of events truly are a networking opportunity from head to toe.
The lasting impacts of attending a conference is meeting people from your industry, exchanging ideas and, ultimately, connecting with the right individuals to help you take the next step in your career.
However, some people are unsure how to approach networking (in general) and at conferences (in particular).
If you want to learn the ins and outs of networking at your next conference, read on as we unravel the world of developing lasting professional relationships in the perfect environment ahead of Heapcon 2019.
The early bird catches the worm
The conference is coming up in a couple of weeks and you’re still pretty relaxed, but somewhere in the back of your mind - you’re stressing out about how to succinctly present yourself and your ideas to others in the hopes of finding a new business opportunity.
But as you’re slowly starting to think through how to best tackle the upcoming problem, the thing is - people have already joined the networking game weeks before the conference.
Behold the conference app. Most serious conferences have an app available that was designed to help attendees be better organized and connected with each other.
And these apps come in pretty handy. Aside from a personalized agenda and access to important updates concerning the event, a conference app is an excellent place to start getting to know the people you’ll be hanging out with during the conference itself.
An event app will kickstart the networking process and lay the foundation for acquiring new business contacts. So go ahead and start connecting with people before taking things to the next level.
Preparedness is next to godliness
It’s day one of the conference, the energy is high and you’re starting to meet a lot of people. Now is the time to showcase your personality and start networking in person.
But first things first - you should arrive prepared. This means that you need to have some sort of direction for what you’re trying to accomplish.
Herein lies the gist of it all - knowing what you want and being smart about it. This doesn’t necessarily entail that you need to have the next ten years of your career mapped out and ready to be presented in a rigid elevator pitch at a moment’s notice.
It does, however, mean that you should prepare a well-thought-out digest of your professional life. Who you are, what are your goals and why are you even interested in them? Once you have established what it is that you are looking for, the next step simply consists in wording and execution.
As part of preparing yourself for networking at a conference, it’s of vital importance that you research the speakers and other people of interest attending the conference in order to devise a networking plan tailored to your specific needs.
Getting down to business
A good thing to remember if you’re beginning to feel nervous about approaching people is that everyone you meet at the conference has something in common with you - you’re all attending the same event. This means that chatting with people at conferences for the purpose of networking isn’t really that different than talking to people at any other social occasion.
The key is to be relaxed. Typical conversation starters at conferences include - did you enjoy the keynote speech, is this your first time at this particular conference, which others did you attend recently.
Conferences generally have a laid back vibe and people should be approached in a friendly manner. People want to connect and exchange ideas, so walking up to them in the hopes of engaging in a conversation is most welcome. Be yourself and be comfortable.
Just keep in mind that the short breaks in between sessions, when most networking occurs, mean you need to keep it short, simple and passionate. Presenting yourself as a driven person is paramount when trying to spark a new venture.
Networking is a two-way street
When turning to others as part of advancing your own career goals, you should really consider offering something of value in return.
In order to truly establish a meaningful relationship with new people, get to know more about them, what they are struggling with and really make an effort to help them out if you can.
Give thoughtful advice. Connect situations with your own experiences. Share information. Conferences are community events and, within communities, it’s important to give back.
Helping each other with different challenges equals growing the community, which in turn benefits all of its members.
It’s a wrap…or is it?
The conference is over and you’ve managed to establish exciting new connections. You feel like you’ve accomplished what you set out at the start of the gathering. Done and done.
If you have indeed met the right people and secured interest in your business goals, you deserve a pat on the back. But the job isn’t done there.
These new relationships need to be cultivated. And you need to follow-up.
A couple of days after the conference has ended, be clever and contact the people you’ve met again.
Although most of these follow-up emails are generic pleased to have met you messages, make sure to give them some kind of personal touch depending on the person.
If the person you’re writing to is important for a specific goal of yours, remind them of your conversation and any suggestions that were made. This might seem like the equivalent of the MSN nudge, but it really is important to remind people what you spoke about and ask for a follow-up meeting or to stay in touch.
Everybody met a bunch of people, had loads of conversations and some will have a hard time keeping track of all the information, so don’t hesitate to reach out in this way to whomever you need to.
So as we gear up for this year’s Heapcon (September 26-27), make it a priority to conquer the once-daunting task of networking. The fun and debates are just a well-appreciated bonus.
Networking opportunities at this year’s Heapcon
The sponsors at Heapcon 2019 are TomTom, msgNETCONOMY, Nutanix, Endava, Seven Bridges, Grid Dynamics, enjoy.ing, LotusFlare, Proctorio, Zühlke, FIS, Hooloovoo, Namics, Bosch, SpiceFactory, Prodyna, NetCast, TeleSign, Smith Micro Software, Change, Hello World, and Epson.