Making Connections: How to Network at Conferences

With the popular SXSW event quickly approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to post some tips for making the most of your time there. Figuring out how to network at conferences can help you relax and have a better time without all of the anxiety that goes along with making connections with strangers.

making connections and networking

Order Business Cards

Your preparation before the event will make all the difference once you get there. The first thing you should is make sure you are well-stocked with business cards. It is common for people that work in jobs that don’t require business cards to forget how useful a business card could really be. If used correctly it can turn a brief discussion into terrific opportunities down the road.

So what should you include on your business card? Of course, there’s your name, phone number, and email address. And really, that’s all that is required. If the person wants to remember something about you, there will be plenty of room for them to scribble a quick note or two. If you have a position or project that always comes up in your conversations then go ahead and list that as well if you would like,

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it. The only way of making connections that can have a meaningful impact on your life – socially and professionally – is to break away from the safety of your friends and strike up some conversations with strangers. The easiest way to do this is to not spend too much time thinking about it, just decide who you want to meet and walk up and greet them.

Learning how to network at conferences takes practice, so the first couple times you go do so with the mentality that whatever happens will help you learn for the next event. What you will probably notice is that when you don’t psychologically raise the stakes of each interaction so high, you will start to have better conversations and more success.

Do Your Homework

Knowing which events that you are planning to attend might sound obvious, but without a clear plan in place how will people that you start making connections with know where to meetup with you later on? Big events like SXSW have huge speaker lists, but there are just as many gatherings before the event and parties afterwards. These are some of the best places for trying how to network at conferences since people are out of the professional environment and everyone is in naturally social surroundings.

The other thing you should do is try to learn more about the people attending so that you can have an idea of what they will probably speak about. One of the worst things that you can do is strike up a conversation with someone only to learn that you have no interest in what they are saying. Of course, don’t let this deter you because the beauty of networking is you won’t necessarily know if or how other people can help you, but by making the effort to be interested in making connections with them people might create an opportunity for you.

Networking at professional and social media events like SXSW can turn what should be a fun experience into another day of hard work. By learning how to network efficiently and preparing yourself for the event you can turn the necessity of making connections into a truly memorable experience.