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Maximize Your Business Networking Skills at Industry Events

By Donna Messer


Attendance at professional events provides an opportunity to hear cutting-edge speakers, meet influential and up-and-coming people, and to business network. It is a chance to build the rapport you need to move on to the next step in maximizing your business networking skills at any event.

As a speaker and presenter, I spend a great deal of my time at industry events. I use a system to maximize the time I spend both presenting and attending.

For me, I need to be able to be easily recognized, so I have developed a signature look – I always wear my glasses on the top of my head. And the glasses are always designer ones that are in bright colours. I wear something with pockets so that I'm able to give and get business cards easily. My clothes are always easy care fabric that travels well and won't wrinkle. I choose styles and colours that can be dressed up or down as the occasion requires. I recommend finding a designer you like, and build a conference wardrobe around a complimentary style.

I'm the foster mom for a guide dog puppy, it's hard to miss me when I'm traveling with a dog in a green jacket! My dog guide in training is an ice breaker for me, almost everyone will stop and pet her and say hello.

The conversation just naturally moves on to who they are and what they do. I travel to every event with a small suitcase that can hold all the materials I need, including extra business cards, bottled water, and my laptop. I make sure I have all the reference materials I may need, my presentation and my data base. Often times it's not what you know, but who you know that makes the connection valuable.

Maximizing my time at conferences means that there is a win on both sides of the introduction. When I'm at an industry event or a conference, I'm there to work, to meet new people and to provide them with resources, contacts and leads. I maximize each opportunity by taking the time to build a rapport with them – I find something we have in common, and I note that on the back of their business card. People like people who are like themselves – it takes only a few minutes to find that common ground. I use what I call the RISE Philosophy – build Rapport, exchange Information, find Solutions and do it Ethically.

If I'm speaking at a conference or trade event, I use the directory provided as my source of contacts. If the directory has pictures, I make sure that the picture I submit is current and complimentary. I want people to be able to find me, and a picture that is outdated doesn't work. I recommend getting a professional photographer to provide you with a few shots that can be used when needed. The directory can be a great resource, use it to schedule meetings, to make notes of whom you've met, what you need to do for follow up.

I do my homework in advance of any event, I ask for information on the organization and I check their website. I find out as much as I can about the kind of people who will be attending, I determine their education level, their special interests and any relevant information on their industry sector. Being informed in advance helps me to design a plan of action that will maximize my time at any event. Pre-planning really does reap huge rewards. If you want to maximize your business networking skills at event use the following:

BUSINESS NETWORKING TIPS

 

  • Carry plenty of business cards. A jacket with two pockets is crucial; the right one for business cards, the left for those you collect. No fumbling. No giving out someone else's card by mistake.
  • Check out the buffet first — not because you're hungry. People tend to be very accessible around the food. Talking and eating go together. It's a great way to get started at an event,” Carry your drink in your left hand so you can shake with your right.
  • Quickly scan nametags while looking around. “Don't read nametags while talking to people, always maintain eye contact. Sideways glances make you look unapproachable.”
  • In a crowded room, look for people on their own. An individual contact is one-on-one and makes the most effective business networking. Smile as you approach. Be careful if you approach two people, they may be in conversation, not just chatting, and they won't welcome a third party.
  • Ask for a business card before offering your own. “It's less presumptuous.” Make note of any follow up possibilities on the back of the card.
  • After spotting someone you'd really like to know, try to enlist a colleague who knows the person to make the introduction. “A third party intro is like an endorsement and the next time you meet, you will be remembered.”


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