Networking at a conference is key to getting the return on your investment from attending a live event. While the education / learning is important, the biggest value can come from making connections.  But networking at a conference can be hard.  Below are a few tips to ensure you maximize your time and effort. Live events are the best places to make connections.  #LiveEventsRock

Networking at a conference

Ten Tips For Networking At A Multi-Day Conference 

1. Have a plan. Know in advance whom you want to meet (directly or the type of people), and which speakers you want to hear. Do not leave your schedule to chance or you may miss out on things that are your true priority.  Set up appointments in advance if you know people will be present with whom you want to connect. Remember, networking at a conference does not happen by accident.

2. Bring plenty of business cards. In today’s digital world some argue against the importance of business cards. But having a card is not for you, it is for the other person. Some people forget names quickly and asking for a card helps them recall you later. Telling someone “Google Me” is making them work to keep in touch. Not carrying business cards can be self centered action, and selfish is so last year!

3. Focus on meeting the other attendees, not just the “Stars”. While meeting the speakers and industry gurus is cool, you are one of the many who may come up to them and shove a card in their hands. Instead, place your focus on meeting other people in attendance at the event. Find your peers and make them your “stars”, as they are the ones you will grow up with in the business. Networking at a conference is about peers.

4. Talk to the people sitting next to you. This should go without saying, but very often people get side-tracked and do not make the effort. When you walk into a session, take the time before the presentation begins to say hello to the people seated around you. I call this the “power of hello“. Once you have said something as simple as “hello”, it will be easier to talk with them later in the conference when see them again.

5. Ask questions of people you meet. Never lead with your “elevator pitch”. People are more interested in themselves than they are in you, so ask them questions to help them get to talking first. There is plenty of time to tell them about your business.

6. Put your technology away. Do not run to your iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, tablet, or laptop at every break. When you are working on electronics you send the message that you are unapproachable because you are busy. Utilize the time on breaks to converse with others. Look around and smile rather than texting like crazy. The hallway conversations are legendary for providing the best value of all at conferences. Do not miss out because you are tweeting!

7. Do not automatically send a LinkedIn request. Too often people immediately send social networking link requests to people they just met. However, different people have different policies about whom they link with. If they believe in only connecting with those whom they have established relationships, you make it awkward if you send them a link too early (which they then ignore). Best is to ask people if they would welcome such a link at this time. Be respectful of the fact that they might use social networking differently than you do. Immediately following them on Twitter is okay, as Twitter does not require a mutual connection acceptance.

8. Introduce others. When you meet cool people, be the conduit that connects them with others who might be beneficial to them. This includes others at the conference, as well as people you might know back home. If you ask the right types of questions, you will easily spot connections that can help others. Don’t ever worry about “what’s in it for me”, but instead just be the person who helps others at every turn. You will, over time, develop the reputation as one who assists others …. and then you will find more people will help you, too.

9. Be true to yourself. 
If you are a bit more on the introverted side of things, be honest that a whole three days of socializing will drain your energy. Take some time for yourself to recharge. Do not skip out on major parts of the events, but find the time you need to get focused.
If you are more outgoing, do not overdo it. Sometimes the late nights and free drinks can seem fun at the time, but can also leave you wiped out the next day. Enjoy yourself, but realize that few of us can stay out until 3 AM and be wide-eyed for the 7:30 breakfast.10. Follow up. If you meet interesting people and you never follow up, it makes no difference. Own the follow-up after you meet people and send them an email (or better yet, a handwritten note) telling them how much you enjoyed talking with them, and plan for future discussions. Creating ongoing and meaningful connections with others in the industry will bring you more success.

11. Do more than others expect from you.
Bring more to a new relationship than the other person expects and they will always remember you as someone who is a giver. As you get to know people make it a priority to understand what they need to succeed. Sometimes you or someone in your network is they key to the other person achieving their goals. Find ways to help. Those who give always get more down the line.

Thom Singer is a keynote speaker and professional master of ceremonies / EmCee.  He is the host of two podcasts and the author of 12 books.  If you are hosting a live event, add Thom Singer to the agenda and work with him to make your event the best conference ever!