Conferences are a great way to stay up-to-date in your field and network with people in your chosen industry. For many jobseekers, the trade show floor and happy hours can seem like the perfect time to make an impression on stakeholders in a dream company. However, overeager job hunters handing out resumes may come off less charming than you think.
It is possible to make meaningful connections with business contacts at your next conference. In this post, we’re going to share some helpful tips for how you can prepare for your next conference and make a lasting impression.
Know Who You Are (And What You Want)
Whether you’re attending an event specifically catered to networking or if you just have a few minutes to small talk with the people sitting near you, you’ll almost always face the same question: “So what do you do?”
The time to craft your elevator pitch is before you step foot in the convention center. Write a few concise sentences about who you are and what you do. Practice it out loud. If you’re a student, in between jobs or seeking your next career step, include what you’re working towards.
By practicing these few sentences, you’ll come off as cool, confident, and knowledgeable. Short, non-rambling answers also make it much easier for someone you meet to comprehend what you do and connect you to others.
Respect Others’ Time
Other professionals attending the conference are also there to network and make professional connections. Some are looking to further their career while others are trying to drive revenue through partnerships. Meanwhile, vendors on the trade show floor are seeking clients to sell their services and technology.
Remember that the time you take from them in selling yourself is time they’re paying for. Keep an eye and ear out for the nonverbal cues and indirect ways people may be asking you to wrap up the conversation. A graceful “I’ll let you get back to the conference” is much more impactful than continuing a one-sided conversation.
Keep Detailed Notes
One of the biggest mistakes that new conference-goers make is the idea that you can receive a business card from someone and will remember later why you got it! Conference attendees meet dozens of people throughout the course of the event. While a conversation may stand out to you, a vendor or speaker talks to so many people that it can be difficult to recall who you are.
If you have a strong conversation with someone you’d like to follow up with, take a moment directly after you talk to take notes. Even just scribbling something to jog your memory on a business card will be better than nothing. That way, when you write that follow-up email or LinkedIn message, you can directly reference what you spoke about to help the other person remember you.
This helps build your connection and shows that you aren’t copying and pasting the same message to everyone you met. Which you definitely aren’t doing, right?
Conferences and trade shows are a terrific way to meet new people and extend the reach of your network while learning about the next trends in your industry. You’ll also be able to identify what kinds of companies you want to work for – which can help your recruiter find the right placement for you.
Amber Wojcek is the director of marketing for Vonix, an Orlando-based cloud communications provider. With a M.A. in Mass Communication from UCF, Amber studies and writes about trends in digital media and marketing for B2B businesses. She enjoys filling her Instagram stories with her dogs, who she’s often walking to breweries near her home in Sanford.