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How to network like a pro at conferences

24th Jul 2014


Conferences are one of the best places to connect with potential customers and future employers. They often attract a big crowd which also means that breaking into existing circles or groups, and making meaningful and relevant connections can be challenging.

If you’re attending MAD Week in Sydney next week, the comprehensive networking guide below will help you plan and execute a purposeful approach to networking at conferences.

We are proud sponsors of the Mad Week Customer Experience Conference on the 31st July. We’ll be tweeting with the conference hashtag #MADWeekAU. We’ve also created a Twitter list of guest speakers at the Customer Experience Conference. You’ll find them here.

Before the conference

  1. Search for the conference hashtag.  Hashtags are now used at events and conferences to facilitate conversations and engage attendees. A hashtag is used to tweet about the event, share key points and highlights, as well as find people who are talking about the conference on Twitter.
  2. Find out who is speaking and connect with them on Twitter.
  3. Let others know you’re coming along with a tweet. This is a great way for other attendees to find and connect with you.
  4. Create a Twitter list of conference attendees and speakers.  Add people to your Twitter lists as you find them. This will come in handy later when you want to connect or live-tweet during the conference.
  5. Make sure to follow and send a personal tweet to relevant people letting them know you’d love to meet up at the conference.
  6. Use a social media management tool like Hootsuite to set up feeds of the conference hashtag and your Twitter lists. It will help you get organized and follow conversations seamlessly whether you’re on a laptop or mobile device.
  7. If you’d like to know more about certain people, look them up on Linkedin and send a private message letting them know you’d like to connect at the conference.
  8. Be clear about how you’re going to introduce yourself and your company. Get your elevator pitch ready and practise until you can express it naturally.
  9. To avoid awkward moments and get past small talk, compile a list of questions that will help move the conversation and uncover topics of mutual interest.
  10. Familiarise yourself with the conference topic and make sure you’re up to date on the latest industry news.
  11. Install Twitter, Linkedin, Hootsuite or your preferred social media management tool on your mobile device.

At the conference

  1. Some conferences provide an attendee list. If one is available, scan the list for people or companies you might want to approach.
  2. Send a tweet letting people know you’re there and tagging others with whom you have already connected.
  3. Participate in online conversations by live tweeting key points, comments and pictures using the conference hashtag.
  4. Ease yourself into conversations by approaching someone who is flying solo and introducing yourself.
  5. Be brave and introduce yourself to someone who is a big deal, not as a fan, but as an equal. Rather than telling them how much you love their work or admire what they’ve done, think about what truly resonates with you in relation to their business philosophy or body of work and tie it in to your work or projects. Ask them for their opinion and offer your own. For example, “I really enjoyed your book on robotics and the future of work which came out 5 years ago and wonder if your position has changed since then, given recent advances. I’ve read recently about this new robotics company that’s doing amazing things.”
  6. The best way to get something is to offer something of value first.  As you engage in conversations, tune in to people’s challenges at work and offer help where you can. This can be in the form of a book, resource or a contact within your network that might be valuable to them.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for something but don’t scare them away. If you stumble upon an opportunity that requires you to put yourself out there, you need to articulate what you want succinctly and humbly. This could mean a request to be connected with another person, a meeting to discuss a co-marketing opportunity or even a job opportunity.
  8. Know when to exit a conversation and do it gracefully. If there’s an awkward silence, say “Please let me know how your project goes, I’d love to hear how it turns out.” Or ask them, “Have you seen anyone from [company] tonight? I’ve been meaning to chat with them.” Whatever your reasons for ending a conversation, keep it positive, polite and open-ended for the future.

Post conference follow up

  1. Connect immediately after the event. They are more likely to remember the conversations you had at the event and you’re in a good position to build on that relationship.
  2. Add your new contacts on Linkedin with a personal note.
  3. If you promised to send information or introductions their way, follow through within a few days.
  4. Put a plan in place to further develop and nurture your new relationships.

Networking for introverts

If you're an introvert, you will love this article on The Introvert's Survival Guide to Networking on

[These tips are based on the ebook “How to network at conferences” published by Hubspot.]