How to Network at a Professional Conference

Professional conferences exist and are highly sort after because of how important they are. In each industry, there exists professional conferences and summit where the professionals come together to share knowledge and gain new information. In the healthcare industry, one of their major conferences is the Healthcare Analytics Summit. It’s highly rated by healthcare professionals and it’s sure a great place to network.

Speaking of networking, a professional conference is a great place to network, meet peers and make new mentors in your field. Below we discuss the Importance of Networking at HASummit and the best ways to make the most of other professional conferences through networking and other means.

Set Goals

Before you get to the conference have and set clear goals for what you want to achieve. Conference is usually fast paced with maybe 30 min breaks for networking. Set your goals beforehand so you know what kind of conversations you want to have and with whom. Also with so many people and conversations moving and happening, you don’t want to waste your peers’ time being indecisive about what you want to discuss.

Be Prepared

After setting your goals you need to prepare. If there are specific people you want to meet at the conference, do your research. Read their book or the latest paper they wrote and also read about their company or their specialty. Prepare for every conversation you want to have so you go in with knowledge and it makes you look more professional and you also get more out of your conversations this way.

Plan Your Schedule

Map out your schedule and use an actual map of the conference events if one is available. Know what sessions are going on each day and who is speaking. This will help you plan your time more and choose the best seminars and activities to attend. You probably can’t attend all the events at a weekend conference but with a scheduled plan, you can make the most of your time.

Stay in the Same Hotel the Conference is Being Held

If you are lucky, your company would probably book a hotel room for you in the same hotel as the conference. If you are booking yourself, stay in the same hotel a the conference as this way you get more out of the experience. You also wouldn’t have to worry about trying to commute in a different city. If you have to stay at a different hotel try finding out if there is a shuttle service for other people attending the conference who are also staying at the hotel.

Avoid the Helicopter Approach

You know when you want to talk to someone but they are talking to someone else and so you just hover around the person like a helicopter while trying to avoid eye contact? Well, that’s called the helicopter approach. You make the person you want to speak to nervous and it comes off as unprofessional. Complete your approach and introduce yourself.

Arm Yourself with Conversation Starters

Keep some conversation starters in mind as well as questions you can ask during a conversation to keep it going. Below are some conversation starters

  • “Where are you from?”
  • “How long have you been with (Fill In The Blank) company?”
  • “Where were you before joining (Fill In The Blank) company?”
  • “What interested you in (Fill In The Blank) conference?”
  • “What are you hoping to get out of this conference?”
  • “What sessions/speakers are you looking forward to?”
  • “What have been your favorite sessions/speakers so far?”
  • “Will you be attending other conferences this year?”
  • “I’m trying to improve  (Fill In The Blank) — what are you doing, any tips?”

Stay off Your Phone

If you spend the whole time with your head buried in your phone or computer, you will end up missing out on making important connections and having great conversations. Also if you stay off your devices, you’ll be more approachable. Perhaps there are people at the conference who want to meet you too and have you as a mentor. Be open to helping others too. Don’t go with the idea in mind that you’re there just to pitch yourself or your agenda. Listen to others and you’ll be surprised at the amazing relationships and opportunities that open up. Also don’t just spend all your time trying to meet the speakers or high-ranking industry officials at the conference. There are other great connections you can make with peers and other not so popular professionals. Be more open-minded and mingle with the crowd.

Don’t Get Carried Away

If alcohol is being served, don’t drink too much or get carried away or overindulge in the social time at conference parties. Remember the whole industry is there and watching and you don’t want to give a bad impression or lose all credibility.

Use Social Media

Follow the conference #hashtag on Twitter and engage with fellow attendees. Use the hashtag when you post about the conference and get on the mailing list so you can stay up to date with information about the conference. By engaging people on social media, you’ll build a “conference network” in no time and leave with several new connections and friends. However, don’t overdo this and end up freaking people out or spending all the time with your head buried in the devices that you miss out on having the best experience.