As the leader of IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo, I oversee the robust 3.5-day program that includes more than 70 educational sessions, a variety of networking opportunities, meet and greets with keynote speakers, and other special attendee events. An important value of our conference, or any in-person business event, is the opportunity to network with like-minded professionals in our field.
If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of networking and approaching people you don’t know, here are some tips you can use at your next conference or in-person business event.
- If offered, attend the orientation session for first-time attendees. This will acquaint you with the event’s agenda as well as other attendees in the same position as you. When the time is right, introduce yourself to others. Some ice-breaking tips include sharing your name, where you’re from, where you work, and your role. Then ask others those questions, listening carefully for commonalities and differences in your backgrounds. Oftentimes, further conversation occurs naturally after this point and first-timers frequently plan to connect again during or after the event.
- Before or after a presentation, start a conversation with someone sitting nearby about the presentation topic. Start out by introducing yourself and asking about his/her interest in the session. If you have specific questions or insights about the session, offer that as further information or ask how the session relates to his/her job responsibilities or career aspirations.
- After a session that sparks your interest, introduce yourself to the presenter and ask specific questions regarding the concepts covered or how you can obtain more information. Offer your business card so that you can continue sharing material on the topic.
- During networking events such as meet and greets, group meals, or cocktail parties, seek out individuals who are standing alone, whom you haven’t met, or whom you’ve met in a prior session. Besides introducing yourself, inquire about what sessions he/she has participated in, any impressions or takeaways, and what this other attendee has learned. Share your thoughts also.
- Small group activities like conversational roundtables or exhibitor showcases allow for additional one-on-one time with other attendees as well as opportunities to meet with exhibitors to learn about their services. In addition to the above examples, other conversation starters include inquiring about new industry or regulatory events, discussing work challenges you may be experiencing, or learning more about the organization hosting the event to better understand other services of interest to you.
MAKE IT COUNT
When you feel the conversation has ended, offer to connect on LinkedIn or exchange business cards. And don’t forget to follow up! Starting and sustaining a conversation with business professionals in your industry is an important way to grow, build your self-confidence, and expand your career horizons. So go ahead and start that conversation!
To jumpstart building your networking skills, join us at IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo held in Indianapolis on June 16-20, 2018. Register now for your chance to network with the profession’s top thought leaders and professional colleagues.