Tuesday, August 6, 2019

How to Network at Business Conferences - Some Tips to Get Your Company Started

We are about to embark on the peak conference season here in Boston with Inbound 2019, MarTech AI World, and various technology conferences invading our amazing city this fall.    Between all of the conferences and with the thousands of college students coming into town, Boston will be bustling!

So far, when we have provided business networking tips in our recent blogs, we have focused mostly on the attendees at networking events such as our own Mass Professional Networking events.  The way attendees go about networking at events versus companies networking at large conferences are similar but there are some differences.  The reason is at some conferences, your company may be netowrking a future client or business partner, but instead be networking with your competition.    From a 1-on-1 networking perspective, always remember that even if the person you are talking to may be your competitor, it is all about their connections, or in other words, the 2nd level connection.  Be open to discussion, be honest and up front, since you never know what the future may bring.

What I like to do now, is provide some tips for companies & sales personnel in particular on how to network at larger conferences.   The key is to engage in deep, meaningful discussions with executives from target accounts that lead to bonafide sales opportunities.

1)  Leverage Introductions from the Conference Hosts

Conference organizers maintain lists of attendees and speakers, however not all conference organizers share this information.   A way around this is to get on a sponsor list since the conference marketing personnel can introduce sponsors with attendees and you will have an easier time build your warm market and building your prospect's trust.

2)  Come Prepared - Bring the Right Stuff

Large conference offer companies in particular sponsors an opportunity to demonstrate their wares and how they can help attendees when intermingling at the networking event within the conference.   If you have access to any of your company's white papers, case studies or blogs, be ready to share with people you meet.    Don't wait to send that follow-up email.  Learn how to share information right from your device to someone on the spot.  It can open up discussion immediately.

3) Use All Networking Opportunities at the Conference

Do not retreat back to the hotel or some coffee shop to check emails during breaks or at the end of the conference day.   Depending on how the conference is organized, there are typically multiple opportunities for meeting and speaking with potential clients.  Some example of events are pre-event breakfasts, conference breaks, after conference mixers.  Some quick advice at the after conference mixer, go easy on the wine and beer, since you are setting an example of your company.

4) Utilize the Event's Mobile Application to Connect with Attendees

Most event organizers provide mobile apps for all sponsors and attendees to use to track the agenda, rate sessions, follow registered attendees on Linkedin and to see who is actively checked into the event.  This provides companies, in particularly sponsors another avenue to connect with and promote their brand to attendees and potential target accounts.

5)  Get Involved and Engage on the Keynote and Panel Topics

One of the best ways to break the ice with conference attendees and target accounts is by talking about aspects of keynote addresses or panel discussions given during the event.  It is a terrific way to make instant connections with attendees.   If you have a blog about the event or a particular session, promote it to the people you met at the event and offer your insight.  It builds trust with your new connection.

Finally, a bonus tip.  Smile and be friendly and put your phone down and be social.  That email can wait.   Networking is the #1 most effective sales tool today, so when you are at a conference, be visible, be helpful and most of all, have fun.

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