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Every tech conference you attend is an opportunity to meet like-minded professionals. Many of them share your interests, ambitions, and goals, and can often teach you more about your industry, regardless of your experience. Naturally, you’d want to network with these people and create lasting connections.
That said, it isn’t always as simple as walking up to someone and saying, “Hello.” You should set aside time to prepare for the conference, planning your approach to make a memorable first impression. Otherwise, you might move from conversation to conversation without seeing the kind of results you want.
With this in mind, what steps should you take to network successfully at your next tech conference? What are the top strategies you should employ to maximize your presence and connect with other attendees? We’ll walk you through everything you should know, detailing five tips to remember as you move forward.
1. Avoid the Standard Icebreakers
You’ve likely heard the same icebreakers in rotation at past conferences, such as, “What do you do?” and, “What company do you work for?” While these questions are simple and safe, they aren’t going to excite the curiosity of the person you’re speaking to. You need to take a different approach.
Consider the question, “What was your favorite talk so far?” It feels far more natural than the standard icebreakers most attendees are familiar with, and it’ll lead organically into an open-ended discussion about interests and aspirations. You’ll learn more about their position and company along the way.
Here are three additional icebreakers which will capture the attention of an attendee.
- “What are you hoping to gain from the conference?”
- “What are you most excited about in the tech industry?”
- “What are you looking forward to most during the conference?
2. Take Advantage of Social Media
Conferences will often create a featured hashtag to allow attendees to track and participate in conversations. If possible, you should find this hashtag and use it to search across social networks for discussions related to the event. Comment on posts and keep current with your peers leading up to the conference.
When you build relationships through social media before the event begins, meeting another attendee in person is more comfortable. You have context for your first encounter, whether you discuss a prior post or continue your previous conversation. You’re already somewhat familiar with the other person.
3. Make a Memorable Business Card
Set aside time far in advance of the conference to design a memorable business card. It’s critical to remember your card is only one of dozens an attendee will collect over the course of the event. You want your card to have a defining characteristic which sets it apart, improving your chances of a follow-up email.
Of course, you want to remain professional, and this has its limitations. Even so, you should experiment with different patterns, colors, textures, and styles until you find something which stands out. A unique card is far more effective than something plain and white which your contact will lose or throw away.
4. Give Each Person Your Full Attention
Some attendees self-sabotage by scanning the room in the middle of a conversation. They’re searching for someone else to speak with, such as a more important contact or representative they’d like to meet. This habit conveys disinterest and compromises a relationship which could have proven beneficial, given time.
Among other mistakes which undermine your efforts, this is one of the most damaging. It limits your opportunities when you give preferential treatment to one attendee over another. You should always approach each attendee with an equal amount of attention and interest, listening to what they have to say.
5. Don’t Hover Near Other Attendees
It’s natural to feel hesitant before you introduce yourself to another attendee. This hesitance isn’t a problem unless you allow the hesitation to extend. When you start to hover, taking the “helicopter approach” to meeting new people, you’re causing them discomfort and harming your chances of successful networking.
Even though it’s difficult, you can’t afford to pause when you walk up to someone. Mentally prepare what you’d like to say and take it from there. The first few conversations are likely to feel somewhat stilted, but persist and remain optimistic, knowing you’ll improve your networking skills with every interaction.
Feel Confident as You Continue
Consider some of the suggestions above as you move toward your next conference. Develop a memorable design for your business card, survey social media sites, and practice icebreakers. Prepare for the event, strategize your approach and avoid the common mistakes which others in your position have made in the past.
Most of all, feel confident as you continue. As long as you implement the advice in this article, you’ll form valuable business connections and make the most of your time at the conference.
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