4 Tips for Better Networking at Your Next Tech Conference

Now that we are a little bit into the new year we can start planning for this year’s conferences. Are you ready to make the most of it?

Conferences present health IT professionals with great opportunities to network and make connections that could help them land their next job. Here are some networking tips to get the most from your next tech conference:

Be prepared

Don’t expect to show up to a conference with thousands of attendees and numerous events and magically meet the right people at the right time. Do your homework before the event.

Review the event schedule and strategize which sessions, workshops, and seminars to attend. Look to see who is speaking at each event what companies they are from. Who are you most interested in meeting and which companies do you want to work for? Target the individuals you want to speak with and learn some background information about them from their company website or from LinkedIn and other social media profiles. If the event features an exhibit floor, study the list of vendors and know which booths to visit.

Plan to attend every social event—these are major networking opportunities. Informal events give you a chance to make unexpected connections and meet contacts on your list in a more relaxed atmosphere.

You can also get a head start before the event and network with other attendees through social media. Use the conference hashtag on Twitter to let others know you will be attending and search the hashtag to find others who have done the same. Follow and tweet other professionals who will be attending.

Start a Conversation

Starting a conversation and be awkward and overwhelming. Knowing what you want to say will take some prep time.

The conversation should first start with an introduction. Leave the rigid elevator speeches at home and introduce yourself as genuinely as possible. Present yourself as a human, not as a job-seeking robot.

Once introductions are made, focus the conversation on the person you are speaking with. Keep a mental list of conversation starters and questions that can serve as jumping off points. Ask where they are from, how long they’ve worked for the company, and which sessions they plan to attend or are looking forward to.

When the small talk starts to fade, ask them more about the company and their role. Ask them to elaborate on their work and projects they mention. Listen for a common connection and build the conversation around it.

Before the event, read up on industry news and trends. You should be able to speak intelligently about the field, especially when speaking with a prospective employer.

Build relationships

Conferences are not a scavenger hunt—you are not in a competition to collect the most business cards.

Instead of rushing through conversations to meet everyone on your list, head to events with the goal of building valuable relationships. Networking isn’t a formula and every conversation won’t lead to a connection. Take the time to speak with others in the hopes of building a genuine relationship, not just to ask for a job.

Keep in touch

Don’t let your hard work done at meetings go to waste. Keep in touch with the contacts you meet after and continue to build and solidify relationships.

Reach out to connections on social media or LinkedIn and follow up with a “nice to meet you” email. But don’t just contact these people when you need something. Send them articles and information you think would interest them, discuss topics you spoke about at the event, and ask about any projects they mentioned.

If you’re likely to forget details that could be useful later, jot down a few notes about the person on the back of their business card after you meet them to help jog your memory later.

What other steps do you take to prepare for a conference? What are your networking strategies?