How to Network at a Seminar
While a seminar is a great opportunity to learn new skills, it can also be one of the best places to build your business network.
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And who you know depends on how well you network.
With the advent of professional social networking sites like LinkedIn, networking has never been easier. While social networking provides us with great tools to build relationships, face-to-face networking is still the best way to expand your network.
And while seminars are great chances to learn new skills or techniques, they’re also excellent networking opportunities.
The first step to effective networking is to determine your target market: What types of people do you want to talk to? You want to focus your efforts on people who will be interested in your service or product.
With a seminar, this step is easy since you can determine the types of people who will attend based on the seminar topic. You may even want to go to a seminar you wouldn’t normally go to strictly to network with a certain group of people.
Regardless, it’s always a good idea to make a list of the types of people you’d like to connect with.
Also, you’ll want to prepare for the all-important first impression. Don’t come with your normal elevator pitch. Instead, focus on starting an interesting conversation between you and your networking prospect. Prepare a short introduction to yourself and your product or service and make a list of questions to ask them.
At the Seminar
Now that you’ve carefully crafted your introduction, listed those you want to connect with, and prepared some questions, it’s time to put your plan into action.
The adage “the early bird gets the worm” applies here. Get there before the seminar begins to start networking early. You’ll be able to get a lot of introductions out of the way so you can start getting to know other attendees and begin to determine who you’d like to talk to most.
Take advantage of downtime, breaks, and group activities. Keep the conversations going and you’ll start to see relationships form.
During the course of your conversations, make sure to avoid talking about yourself too much. Let the other person dominate the conversation while you guide it with the questions you prepared. But make sure you don’t forget your purpose: to make a lasting connection with a useful business contact.
After the Seminar
If you’ve done your job, you’ll leave the seminar with an abundance of business cards from potential network contacts. Like always, it’s important to follow up.
To make sure they’ll remember you, add a personal touch. Write a handwritten letter, send a card, or send a LinkedIn or Facebook friend request — anything that will stand out from the standard email follow-up. And be persistent. If you don’t hear back from them after your initial email or letter, give them a call.
You won’t be able to make a connection with everyone. But a seminar can be a great way to target your networking efforts and achieve effective results.