Three Ways to "Up Your Networking Game" at a Conference
Whether you’re introverted or extroverted conferences offer a multitude of opportunities if you’re prepared to leave overwhelm at the door and show up as the professional you truly are. You’re in luck as I’m going to share three tips so that anyone can maximize their time and energy at a conference and walk away with actual results and perhaps more importantly feeling ultra confident. Let’s get started!
Tip #1. Before you go, commit to a positive and productive mindset.
I believe the best outcomes are a product of intentionality. Before we ever show up to an event or step foot at a conference we can be at the cause of our decisions by choosing a mindset that aligns with who we are and what are goals are for that particular meeting, event etc. This might sound hokey pokey but trust me it’s a powerful tool that will set you apart from others and give you the momentum you need to start the day off with a bang!
Example mindsets that can transform a blah networking mindset to a results driven, open minded approach!
I belong and they belong. (Thanks to Tristan Powers Campbell for sharing this with me!)
What I put in, is what I’ll get out.
I am worthy of others time and they are worthy of mine.
I can help others and others can help me.
I don’t need to be perfect and I will do my best.
Tip #2. Be mindful of what you body is telling others before you speak!
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, studied the elements of personal communication and came to find that there are three elements in any face-to-face communication: 1) words, 2) tone of voice and 3) nonverbal behavior. Shockingly his research concluded that the most important element in face-to-face communication is nonverbal behavior which accounts for 55% while tone and voice account for 38% and the words we actually use only account for 7%!
This is brilliant! Why? Because it tells us that we can stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to have the perfect ‘elevator pitch’, the magical opening series of questions etc. Knowing this tells us that if we are more aware of what our body language is ‘telling’ others around us there’s a much higher chance they’ll make positive assumptions about us before we ever have to open our mouths and say a single word.
The big takeaway is perfectly summed up as Dr. Albert Mehrabian said, “If words disagree with the tone of voice and nonverbal behavior, people tend to believe the tonality and nonverbal behavior.”
Here are some ideas to help your body language say, “Hi, let’s connect!” and I’m a friendly, approachable person that would love to learn more about you!”
Strike a Power Pose at home before you leave for the conference and if you need an extra boost of confidence strike another one in a bathroom stall at the event. (Sometimes I do this multiple times throughout the day to ensure my body is giving off the right cues to new people I’m looking to meet!)
Smile! Make sure your hands aren’t crossed over your chest and that you’re shoulders are down and back in an ‘open’ gesture. If you’re standing make sure you’re not hunched to one side and avoid swaying from side to side….this screams awkwardness and nerves.
Take breaks to refuel and refresh so that you’re body language is at ‘it’s best’ whenever you’re around other conference attendees.
Take time a day or two before the event to decide what you’re going to wear. This isn’t a tactic to look better than others, but to ensure that you’re comfortable in your clothes and not fidgeting all day. One of my favorite quotes about fidgeting comes from the movie, Pretty Woman, where the hotel manager tells Vivian, “When You’re not fidgeting you look very beautiful.” I can’t agree more with this sentiment when it comes to making first impressions and trying to be at our best. Being comfortable and confident in your clothes will enable you to stand out and be memorable!
Tip #3. Have a networking buddy, so you can ‘RAISE each other up’!
I read a short, yet impactful article from FairyGodBoss.com entitled, The Surprising Networking Hack That You’ll Love if You Hate Self-Promotion, by Carol Fishman Cohen. What this article suggested was pure brilliance and a powerful tool that anyone can use when they’re going to any type of networking event, not just a conference.
We’ve all heard the idea of having a networking buddy when we go to an event, right? Most people hear this idea and think, “Great, we’ll go together and that way when no one talks to us we’ll at least have each other so we can chat, grab a drink and convince each other it’s ok to leave before we’ve met anyone else.” Wrong! The productive way to use a networking buddy, according to Cohen, is so that you’ll someone you know, like and trust as you walk into a sea of strangers, AND more importantly is to have someone that can speak on your behalf and share some of your biggest accomplishments that you’re too humble or nervous to say out loud.
As Cohen said, “This is information I would be unlikely to mention on the first pass, and indeed it might come across as awkwardly braggy at any point, but it would be natural and no problem for someone else to deliver this message on my behalf. So the next time you are going to an important networking event, don’t go alone! Go with a friend and be each other’s networking buddies so you can brag on each other’s behalf in a perfectly acceptable and appropriate way.”
In order to execute the networking buddy system here are some things you should consider before you go to an event:
Pick someone you know, like and trust and that feels the same about you
Before you go to the event, make ‘the ask’ to your desired networking buddy so you can explain what you’re hoping to do for them and how they can help you as well
Each buddy should take some time (10min) jotting down their recent accomplishments or achievements that align with the focus of the conference so that what you share on your buddy’s behalf is relevant and worthy of others time.
Find time to share your accomplishments/achievements with your buddy so they accurately speak on your behalf.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to split from each other once you’re both feeling more grounded. That way you can both meet other people and if appropriate make ‘on site introductions’ rather than having to send a follow-up introduction email!
I’d love to hear from you! Are you signed up to attend a conference this Spring? If so, which of these three tips might help ease your conference nerves and help you shine bright? Or if you have other tips and tricks that have helped you the past please share them with our community by clicking here!
Wishing you all a productive, confident and results driven conference season!