Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dos and Don'ts of Networking

Networking is a way to meet other people in the industry, from all levels of experience and expertise. Don’t focus only on the presenters. After all, their time is limited, and you don’t want to overwhelm them. Take the time to meet others and talk to people around you. Your fellow attendees have life experiences and knowledge that they can share, too. Below are some more dos and don’ts to help your conference be a successful one.

Do be prepared. Start networking before you even get to the conference.  It’s important that you know about the presenters and their area of specialization. Take the time to visit the presenters' websites. You don’t want to demean people with questions like, “Now, what do you do?” or “Who are you with?”

Do be proactive. Introduce yourself. Get to sessions early so you can meet people. Sit in the front row so you’re in a good position to reach the presenter after the talk. Do thank the presenter, being specific about something you learned or appreciated. This is not the time to give a sales pitch, as that will turn people off.

Do have business cards or something similar. If presenters ask you to contact them, you want to have your pertinent information handy. Make sure all the information is current, and cards with a small personal photo are best. A picture helps people put your name with a face. Don’t pass out your cards like a political candidate.

Do be a good listener. Be attentive. Take good notes. Plan ahead of time the questions that you need to ask. Enjoy talking to the other person. Here is a wonderful opportunity, so make the most of it by enjoying it as well as trying to connect. Don’t be on your cell phone, checking messages or, heaven forbid, talking! This tells people that you think you are more important than they are.

Do use good manners.  Be considerate of the presenters’ limited time. One way of getting assurance that you’re not interrupting, nor being a nuisance, is to preface your conversation with something like, "Have I caught you at a bad time? I have a quick question I wanted to ask you." Don’t monopolize the conversation. Be brief; give other people a chance to talk. (And remember, presenters need breaks, too!)

Do learn how to excuse yourself gracefully. There will be times when the presenter doesn't turn out to be the right contact you were hoping to connect with, or it becomes apparent that the other person does not appear interested in talking with you (or doesn’t have the time). In this case, excuse yourself politely, thank them for their time, and continue your networking with other members of the conference.1  Don’t take it personally.

Do follow through. If you have promised someone to send them a specific piece of work, do so promptly, and, if something happens that you can’t, let that person know. If you made a real and personal connection with a presenter, send an email or card, thanking them for their advice (suggestion, input, etc.) Stay in touch with fellow attendees, too. Remember, they can be a valuable source or sounding board. Don’t put away your materials from the conference. File your handouts for future reference. Type or rewrite your notes as soon as possible. It’s amazing how much you’ll forget or can’t decipher later.

Lastly, do have a good time and learn as much as you can. We want your experience at KCWC to be not only beneficial, but enjoyable as well!

Citation:  1.  

--Trish Nall, KCWC Secretary

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