Whether you are new to attending conferences, trade shows and exhibition or an old hand at it, networking can be difficult. When you are at a large event and trying to promote your business, it can be overwhelming. If you need some advice, follow our tips to help you feel confident the next time you need to network.
Before you even start to plan for your next major business event, you must set clear goals. Ask yourself questions such as: What do I want to get out of this? Who is my target? How will I know I’ve achieved my target?
These kinds of questions will put you in a good position to start putting your goals into words. Your goals will help you to plan your time at the event, choose the most relevant speakers to see and know who the right influencers are to speak with.
Setting SMART goals may help you to keep on track. These are goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. This means setting goals that include clearly defined measures and timescales so you know when you’ve hit your target.
An example of a SMART goal may be: “At X conference we would like to achieve X amount of sales leads on day one by speaking to visitors at the stand and handing out information.” You can go into much more detail with these goals and include real measurements so once your goal has been reached, you know.
Attending conferences can be costly but very worthwhile, you don’t want to waste time because you haven’t set any goals.
Have A Strong Brand Image
If you are attending a large event with 1000’s of other attendees, you want to make sure your business stands out. You want to make sure that your brand is clear and easily identifiable all the way from your business cards, to your exhibition stand if you are exhibiting. Confusing or sloppy branding will give a bad impression of your business, meaning people will be less receptive to your networking efforts.
If your branding is in need of a refresh, it’s well worth going to a professional. Companies such as www.finessegroup.com can design the perfect exhibition stand with the wow-factor if you will be having a stand at your next event. An eye-catching stand that represents your brand well will attract more footfall to your stand.
Look Up Attendees
It’s important to do your research before you set foot in an event. Research the speakers, attendees and other business who will be at the event. This will help you to understand who you need to target and network with at the event. It will also give you the advantage of discovering how other brands are promoting themselves at the event. Use this information to make your networking strategy stronger. You may even want to introduce yourself to some of the key influencers before you attend and set up meetings.
Use Social Media
In the last section, we briefly mentioned introducing yourself to key influencers. Social media is the perfect way to do this. Nearly all large events will have their own hashtag for social media. Use this hashtag to find out what attendees are interested and to speak to people who will be attending. Social media often much more informal therefore you may be able to build a good rapport that can be expanded upon face-to-face at the event.
Don’t Be Aggressive
Although your main aim may be to gain new business leads, you don’t want to come across as an aggressive, pushy sales person. Ask questions and engage with the people that you are networking with. They will appreciate you showing a genuine interest in them. It also helps if you have done prior research on the person you want to network with, it’ll be easier to ask them relevant questions and develop a good relationship. You also want to make sure your body language is positive, have good posture, smile and make positive eye contact. Small actions like these will help you to appear more relaxed and confident.
Dress The Part
It’s often said that it only takes 7 seconds for someone to make a first impression. With this in mind, if your branding is all in check and you appear unprofessional, it’s likely to put people off no matter how good your business is. Dress smartly and comfortably. Remember, at these events you often find yourself on your feet for long periods of time. Wear comfortable smart shoes, it sounds simple but something this small can affect your mood and the way you come across to people you are networking with.
Don’t attend every session
It can be very tempting to try and attend every speaker and session at an event. However, if you have already set clear goals, you should know exactly who is worth seeing. In downtime from speakers and so on, spend time in breakout areas networking with people. Even if you just visit a breakout area for a quick rest, a polite chat with someone could turn into a potential business lead.
See A Coach
If the thought of networking at a large event is still daunting to you, you may want to book a session with a coach who specialises in public speaking and networking. Seeing a coach could also be useful refresher training for yourself and your team, ensuring that you are fully prepared.
Always Follow Up
If your event has gone well and you’ve arrived back at the office with armfuls of business cards, follow up. You want to follow up within at least three days after the event when your chat is still fresh in the person’s mind. You do want to leave at least a day before you begin to contact anyone, to give them time to travel home and settle back into work after the event. Write down notes after speaking to people, so you make sure you address anything mentioned in your conversation at the event.
Are you feeling more confident for your next event? Share any tips or advice you have in the comments.