Ready for your next conference? Here's how to build your network

Ready for your next conference? Here

by Marie Fincher

There are so many benefits to networking. The new connections you make can lead to more business, referrals, or simply become friendly resources of career-related advice and support. The problem is that it’s more difficult than most of us want to admit.

A conference like HR Tech Summit provides us with an excellent opportunity for networking, but we need to make sure we don’t go home empty-handed.

If you still don’t have a solid plan, now is the time to create one:

1. Download the app
If the people running the conference have an app for you, go ahead and download it. Yes, it’s one more thing taking up space on your phone, but it can really come in handy. You can use the app to preview the various sessions available to you, get a rundown of the speakers, even navigate your way around the event. Some even have built-in functions that allow you to chat with other attendees and organizers.

Bottom Line: Worst case scenario, the app helps you navigate the conference easily. This leaves you more time to focus on networking. Best case scenario, the app even makes networking a bit easier for you.

2. Find the people you know and want to know before you go
Get connected with the conference’s social media pages and official website. Use these platforms to learn as much as possible about the event, to see who is attending, and to interact with anyone involved. The more you get to know the people who’ll be attending ahead of time, the better able you’ll be to hone your networking strategy.

Use the information you gather to make a wish list of people you want to connect with in person. Reach out to them beforehand, if you are able to. Invite them for a cup of coffee, or simply let them know you'll be attending a session with them.

Bottom Line: Break the ice early, and create a list of people to connect with at the conference.

3. Make a Three-a-Day list
It’s not uncommon for people to attend a conference with the intention of connecting with people, only to come home empty handed. That’s because networking often takes a backseat to other things. You’re attending conferences, socializing, or giving presentations yourself. Before you know it, you’re headed home, and your list of connections isn’t any bigger than it was when you left.

To fix this, force yourself to connect with at least three people each day. Use the list you created before you came, and commit to seeking three of those people out, and introducing yourself.

Bottom Line: Take a proactive, self-disciplined approach to networking by forcing yourself to reach out to at least three people each day.

4. Identify your roadblocks
What’s keeping you from networking with people more effectively? Is there something about the upcoming conference that will make networking more difficult than usual? Are you simply struggling with getting out of your shell and connecting with people? Maybe, this upcoming conference has you super busy.

To make the best of things, you’ve got to know exactly what stands in your way. Then, you can strategize some workarounds. For example, if you are a bit nervous, use a service like Trust my Paper to get some professionally written resumes and cover letters. When you connect with potential business associates or clients, you’ve got something to hand over to them.

Bottom Line: Identify the things that are keeping you from connecting. Then, chip away at those problems until they are solved.

5. Attend at least one after-hours event
The truth is, much of the networking that happens at conferences won’t be done during the day. Instead, the best places to connect are often at the happy hours, breakfasts, and other events that aren’t part of the ‘official’ conference schedule. These are the events where people relax a bit, chat, and socialize.

Use these as your opportunity to reach out, and introduce yourself. The influencer who was hurried and busy during the conference may be a lot easier to talk with when they’re relaxing with a glass of wine.

6. Do your time as a volunteer
Most conferences are successful thanks to the many people who volunteer to help things come together. Consider spending a few hours of your own time helping out. If possible, sign up for duties that give you the opportunity to connect with people. What better way to meet people, and build up your contact list?

Final thoughts
Don’t let your next conference become another missed opportunity. Use the tips above to create a networking checklist. This will help you to maximize your ability to make those oh so important connections.

HR Tech Summit 2019 gathers HR professionals, decision-makers and industry leaders for the latest in the world of HR technology and the future of work. Book tickets now at hrtechsummit.com