Attending a live event or workshop can be intimidating.The idea of walking into a packed venue and having to start conversations with complete strangers can strike fear into even the most confident of personalities.
The good news is, networking at live events doesn’t have to feel awkward or uncomfortable.
Here’s seven tips to help:
1. Connect on social media before the event
Most event organisers create a Twitter list of event guests (the Your Year in PR 2017 Twitter list is here) and a dedicated online community for delegates to connect before and after the event (Your Year in PR has a dedicated Facebook community). This means you can check out guests and speakers ahead of the event and identify any you’d like to connect with.
Spending time chatting to other guests ahead of the event will make it much easier to connect with people In Real Life (IRL) and give you plenty of potential ice breakers e.g. ‘I love your Twitter profile picture’ or ‘really enjoyed that article you shared about x’. The event hashtag for Your Year in PR is #YYIPR17.
Many people will be arriving early and/or staying on after the event. So if you want to make the best use of your time, reach out ahead of the event to the people you’d love to connect with and see if they’re free for a short meeting outside of the formal event activities.
2. Arrive early
There’s nothing worse than getting to an event late. Not only will you arrive feeling flustered, you’ll also miss out on valuable networking time. So book travel well in advance, make sure you have the exact address for the venue and plan your route from the station/airport/car park. Stake out a nearby cafe in case you arrive early (the hour or so leading up to the start of an event can be a stressful time for event organisers, so it’s best not to arrive before the official start time).
At many events, guests will have taken the initiative to organise evening drinks (the night before) and breakfast meetings on the day. Your Year in PR has both – check out the Facebook community for details.
3. Be active on social media during the event
Most live events have a dedicated hashtag – which groups together content on the same topic – that is promoted in well in advance of the event. The event hashtag for Your Year in PR is #YYIPR17.
Don’t wait until you get to the event to start posting and using the hashtag. Sharing updates about your journey, pre-event drinks, hotel breakfast – or anything else you think will help you make a connection with guests and speakers – will help break the ice.
Tagging other guests – and speakers – into your social media updates, retweeting and re-sharing other people’s content and engaging with conversations going on around the event will mean your avatar keeps popping up – making you more memorable to other delegates.
4. Ask questions
When you take the microphone to ask a question, you’ll usually be asked to introduce yourself – which instantly makes you more memorable. So don’t be shy about asking questions at the events you attend.
Make asking questions a priority in your informal conversations too; there’s no bigger turnoff than meeting someone at an event who can’t stop talking about themselves.
Stuck for ideas? Here’s a few questions to get the conversation flowing:
‘What do you think of the event so far?’
‘What made you decide to come along to the event?’
‘How do you know x person?’
‘What’s your biggest takeaway so far?’
‘Where are you from?’
5. Don’t try to sell
People like to do business with people they know, like and trust. So diving in and trying to sell people your products/services – before they’ve had a chance to get to know you – is a big turn-off.
When you’re talking to people, focus on building a genuine relationship and let things develop naturally; if there’s a way for you to work together in the future, it will happen when the time is right for both of you.
If you’re stuck for conversation starters, take a tip from my 11-year-old daughter who is just about to start secondary school and recently shared her ‘making new friends’ strategy with me – giving compliments (which also happens to be one I use myself).
‘Great bag’ or ‘love your website – who designed it?’ can be a great way to get chatting to someone new. As ever, putting the focus on someone else – rather than yourself – will make you far more likeable.
6. Don’t leave early
As my friend Andrew Pickering (one half of the content marketing duo Andrew and Pete) pointed out recently, the best conversations often happen at the bar – after the event. So don’t rush off at the end unless you absolutely have to. Most event organisers now include evening socials (you can find out about the socials at Your Year in PR in our Facebook community).
7. Follow up
If you want to make the most of the connections you’ve made at a live event, don’t forget to follow up – and do it promptly.
If you don’t have time for email, recording a short video/audio message and sending it over via Twitter or Facebook messenger can be a quick way to do this.
If you want to make more of an impact, you could also create a blog/vlog about your experience of attending the event. Here’s how to write a blog post about an event you’ve attended.
And don’t forget to tag yourself into any photos that have been posted by the event organisers over on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The Facebook page you’ll need for Your Year in PR is here.
Instagram is here.
Twitter is here.
Looking forward to seeing you on the day. If you can’t attend the event, you can follow along on the hashtag #YYIPR17.