Events are a big investment for sponsors and participants alike. From the time your plane touches down to the minute you sleepily stumble out of the conference on the last day, you have to make the most of your experience. While there are many different reasons to attend a professional event – education, certification, free food – the real value comes from the relationships you build there.
The connections you make are where you’ll see your return on investment. Whether finding new customers, partners or simply peers in your industry, these relationships will help you build your business. So how can you network most effectively?
Preparation will get you far
Research the event and who will be attending. It’s important to know if any of your existing customers, current leads/ contacts or competitors will be at the event. When possible, set up meetings beforehand with potential contacts you know will be attending.
Broadcast on your social media networks that you’ll be attending the event. This way, people can reach out to you if they’d like to meet up as well. Be sure to use the event hashtag to your advantage. Who else has been using it? Any potential customers?
Be ready to participate
It seems like an obvious first step as any good salesperson is prepared to talk and meet others. But what does “participating” really look like? You’ll have to be more proactive than you think.
Lindsay Jeanloz, Vice President, Conference Division at MIS Training Institute, had this advice:
“When you go to a big event, you need to be ready to participate. This often means stepping out of one’s comfort zone and initiating awkward conversation while you wait in the make-your-own sandwich line. The person in front of you may be your next employer or a new contact to add to your professional network.
It means making the effort to introduce yourself to the people you’re sitting next to in sessions and even mentioning why the topic interested you. Chances are, the people around you are trying to solve a similar problem at work too. It means if there’s an attendee meet up at the bar after sessions wrap for the day, you really should consider joining them – even if you don’t know anyone. That’s when some of the best networking will happen because it will be more casual and personal.”
Don’t judge a book by its cover
There is a lot of emphasis put on getting yourself in front of the “right” people, but it’s important to remember that you never know where your next sale will come from. Striking up a conversation costs you nothing, and the person next to you in a session – even if they aren’t your target customer – may know someone who is looking for a product or solution like yours.
Know what you want and what you have to offer
Don’t forget that networking is a two way street. Be prepared to do some favors on the road to getting what you want. If you meet someone who is willing to put you in touch with a potential customer, make sure you return the favor.
The best way to build a relationship is to talk about the other person, so be sure to listen and ask lots of questions.
We are all in the same boat: Get Out There and Build Relationships!
Most people are attending the event for the same reason as you are – trying to make connections. So take advantage of that fact.
Jeanloz states, “There is a reason why you chose to attend a live event, so remember to maximize the fantastic opportunity that is in front of you and take advantage of interacting with your peers, vendor partners and the multitude of expert speakers all under one roof.”
When all else fails, you can always break the ice with a compliment. If someone asked a good question at the last session, tell them so. It’s a guaranteed conversation starter.
Be sure to check out SYNETY’s upcoming events, and come network with us!
MIS Training Institute (MISTI) is an international leader in information security and audit training. MISTI’s flagship InfoSec World Conference & Expo brings together over 1,300 information security professionals each year in Orlando and provides attendees with a comprehensive program of 90+ sessions led by top information security experts. Lindsay Jeanloz, Vice President of MISTI’s Conference Division, oversees InfoSec World, as well as the company’s other conferences and executive dinners.