You have been assigned by the higher ups to attend a conference and come back with a fresh harvest of new prospects. The only problem is that you have no idea how to network. Not to worry! There are plenty of amazing tips out there for you to give the conference your all, meet plenty of new people and report back to superiors with glowing news, like a triumphant hunter dragging in a prized buck behind them.
With Dreamforce 2015 starting tomorrow, these conference networking tips become even more pertinent, so we will also try to relate general strategies to specific tactics you can employ on the floor of the Moscone Center. Here are 5 great ways to professionally network during a conference:
1. Do Your Homework
Your prep work starts well before you ever set foot on the conference center floor. Research who is attending the conference, and make a spreadsheet of your most valuable prospects. Include their name, official title, company and a few personal traits.
Update this list frequently when you notice that X person is going to attend Y event or what was discussed if you actually happen to run into them. You can even include a mnemonic device to remember their name, just be careful not to go full Michael Scott with it.
Arrange meetings with top prospects in advance if possible, but keep in mind that conference plans are never set in stone.
Dreamforce 2015 Networking Tip: SalesForce Chatter is your best resource to lay the groundwork for your Dreamforce visit. You can view the attendance list and see who is going to be where at what time. You can also connect with like-minded business fields and hobby interests, like the Dreamforce Crossfitters group.
2. Collaborate as a Team
Unless you are being sent in as a “one man army,” you are likely attending the conference with colleagues. Make a collective game plan to split up the work and dive into as many potential prospects as possible. Also arrange times to meet and compare notes, and determine which sessions and events are better to attend as a group so your “wing man/woman” can offer support.
3. Work on Your Posture and Appearance
The importance of first impressions cannot be stressed enough. Ensure that you project confidence and put others at ease with your demeanor and appearance. For most of us that sit at a desk several hours a day, this goal means correcting bad posture problems.
Your colleagues can help you with this step by role-playing a conference meeting and recording the interaction. Review the footage to determine if your handshake, greeting, posture and conversation demonstrated the personality traits you wanted them to. Invite feedback and try to improve as much as possible.
4. Use Sessions to Your Advantage
Drumming up a discussion in light of recent presentations and panels helps push conversations in interesting directions, especially if you happen to be talking to someone who help arranged the session. You can also utilize Q&A portions to ask insightful questions that make an impression on people — something they often remember and bring up later on when meeting them. Remember not to show off, but to further the discussion and bring it into new contexts.
Dreamforce 2015 Networking Tips: Study the topics being discussed in presentations and sessions.
5. Make the Most of Every Possible Minute.
Getting comfortable in the conference environment is great, but remember that you only have so many hours until it is over. Since you never know who may be attending next year, consider every second your last opportunity to make an impression.
This strategy goes beyond merely having a productive attitude. You must purposefully create an environment that adds on extra opportunities, which means waking up earlier than usual and arriving early to every session or event.
You can make these goals easier by finding a hotel as close as possible to the conference center. Even if it means paying more, compare the added costs to the time missed and how much you paid to attend.
Another element needed to maximize time is to not spread yourself too thin. Set an agenda with realistic goals so that every moment can receive your maximum attention without you feeling burnt out.
Dreamforce 2015 Networking Tips: The Pickwick Hotel and Mosser Hotel are both affordable and within walking distance to the Moscone Center. The Agenda Builder App can help you construct a reasonable agenda directly from the Dreamforce itinerary. Check your email in lobby areas where you still have a chance to run into someone.
As corny as it sounds, make sure you find ways to enjoy yourself during the conference. Most of the people you meet have gone all out to make their events memorable and enjoyable. Walking around with a sour face or frantically scrambling from person to person will give them a negative impression.
Dreamforce 2015 Networking Tips: There are going to be after parties nearly every night, both announced and hush-hush. Try and attend the ones your top prospects are going to be at to stretch your networking opportunities past working hours.
We know these tips are a lot to soak in, but they should give you plenty to think about before and during the conference. Enjoy Dreamforce 2015 or wherever you happen to be attending, and good luck bringing back great news!