Conference season is upon us, and many business people the UK over are looking forward to the new opportunities, knowledge and connections these business gatherings can bring. However, some might not be so enthused.
Going to a conference is as much about meeting new people as it is about hearing what the speakers have to say. Leaving the conference feeling you’ve made little or no connections worth having can be disheartening, and the pressure to get to know people in your industry can make the whole thing uncomfortable for the less experienced conference goer. Here are some top tips to make the most of your conference experience in 2013.
- Look the part: Turning up in scruffy slacks and a worn-out jumper will do nothing for your image or confidence, but neither will wearing a tight dress and heels you can barely walk in. Choose a simple pleated skirt or summer dress, teamed with a boyfriend blazer and ballet pumps for comfort, style and smartness. Alternatively choose a feminine full skirt, as featured in the Guardian, with kitten heels and a knitted top for chic, hip style.
- Plan before you go: If you know someone you email from time to time is going to be attending, send them a quick message to see if they want to meet up in the break. If there is someone going you know and who you want to talk to, drop them a line to see if you can schedule a quick chat together.
- Talk to your neighbours: When you arrive and are seated, waiting for the first speaker to take to the stand, you can open doors to friendly relationships with a simple ‘hello’ to the people sitting either side of you. Chances are they are feeling just as nervous as you are, and a friendly face can go a long way towards making the both of you feel more comfortable.
- Ask new people questions: Avoid leading a new conversation with your elevator pitch. While you want to let people know who you are and why you’re there, people prefer talking about themselves, so ask them questions and open up before you begin talking.
- Switch off your phone: By grabbing your electronic devices during every break you are sending out a signal that you are too busy to talk to. The messages will still be there at the end of the conference, and you need to use this time to focus on chatting to new people.
- Be an introducer: If you meet someone you think is great, then help to get them linked up with other people that might forge a mutually beneficial relationship with them. Do this at the conference itself and after you get back to the office, then you’ll be seen as valuable to your new contact and more likely to establish a firm friendship with them.
- Follow it up: After you’ve met an interesting person, it is important to facilitate further interaction once the conference is over. As soon as you’re back at work, send them a quick email or note letting them know how good it was to talk to them and plan for some further discussions in the future.