Posted on June 17, 2013 · Posted in General

Image Credit: freedigitalphotos

ou’re at a conference for your industry and you’ve just sat through an inspiring talk by a speaker who may be a good match for your investor list. Palms sweaty, you approach with your business card in hand. What can you say to this speaker to make an impression?

A conference can be a major opportunity for you to network with peers, potential clients and potential investors. Yet for many, networking is intimidating. Try these tips to network successfully in the moments when it really matters.

Getting ready for your event

Having the right tools is half the battle. When getting ready for a conference or important meeting, practice your elevator speech. A good 30-second speech that encapsulates who you are and what you do, the elevator speech is a must for impressing people at busy conferences. Practice your speech until it becomes second nature.

Pack a stack of business cards and take a pen so when someone hands you a business card, you can make a note on the back of the card that helps you remember what you talked about. Don’t forget some type of card organizer to effectively hold your cards. No one wants a wrinkled, stained business card you pulled from your pants pocket.

Always take a look at the business cards others give you and make a note about what the card conveys on first impression. A business card is essentially a snapshot of your company, so you want a professionally designed business card on high-quality paper. After a few networking events, you may notice some common themes in cards that make a good impression.

At the event

Networking is most successful when it comes naturally, so focus on having meaningful conversations with a handful of people rather than rapid-fire chats with everyone in the room. Often, the scariest part of the event is just entering the room. Take a big breath first – if you’re nervous, it may help to set small goals such as talking to two new people.

Once you’re in the room, spend time getting to know people. Introduce yourself to the event host and thank him or her, then take a look around. You may want to catch up with folks you know first, since light mingling can help relieve nerves. If you don’t know anyone, look for a place where people are congregating and head there.

While an elevator speech is an effective way to introduce yourself to a group of people, focus on keeping the conversation natural when talking to one or two people. You’re there to talk about what you do, so that will come up. However, it shouldn’t come off as forced or one-sided. Be mindful of making conversation with others and listening to what they have to say. While you should ask people what they do, dig a little deeper and show an interest in who they are. Conclude conversations by exchanging business cards and shaking hands.

Following up

After the networking event, follow up via email or telephone with folks you’ve met. Connect with them on LinkedIn, or follow them on Twitter.

While networking may not be your favorite activity, it will get easier with time and experience. And making new connections can only help you in your personal and professional life.