Networking at conferences is not always easy - it often feels forced, rushed or worse - completely unhelpful. To understand how to best network at a busy conference, I have tapped into 16 of the biggest and most creative speakers and conference attendees from my recent Adobe Summit trip.
1) "Keep your friends close and your meetings closer. At big events spread out in a giant hotel or several giant hotels, make sure when you’re meeting up with friends or future business prospects that you do whatever possible to keep those meetings close together.
Otherwise, you spend so much time walking back-and-forth between meeting sites that you could’ve spent instead of meeting more people. The map is your friend!" - Jay Baer, founder of Convince & Convert and Hall of Fame keynote speaker
2) "Big networking events are great but sometimes can be overwhelming and conversations can be rushed, some of the strongest connections come through smaller intimate dinners and gatherings." - Amber Osborne, CMO of Doghead Simulations
3) "Bring some small treats/gifts from your home town/country to share with the people you connect with and they will help you stand out from the crowd. It's hard to remember all the different business cards, but they'll remember my stroopwafels." - Guido Jansen, Cognitive Psychologist and Digital Customer Experience Consultant
4) "Build meaningful relationships at conferences by targeting a few key contacts and having multiple non-superficial interactions with each of those contacts. Don't try to spread yourself too thin and network with everyone or you'll be memorable to no one." - TJ Gamble, CEO and Founder of Jamersan
“Networking at large events like Adobe Summit is probably the single most valuable thing you can do when attending. In your day to day grind, you likely don’t have access to 17,000 people all in one place. But at an event, you do and that’s where the magic lies: the ability to bond over mutual interest without having to leave the convention center." - Vincenzo Landino, Filmmaker Chief Strategist, Aftermarq
5) "The greatest gift that comes out of any conference you attend is in the connections that you make during the conference which carry over once it’s over which is why it’s critical to connect on LinkedIn within 24-hours of meeting in person and following up once you’re back home or in the office." - Carlos Gil, International keynote speaker
6) "Conference networking will be most successful if you prepare by both reaching out in advance of the conference and have a goal in mind. Is it just for a relationship, to further a partnership, create content, or another goal. Those will help to drive home successful connections Also, don’t forget to follow up." - Joe Martin, VP of Marketing at CloudApp
7) "Visit the most crowded booths at a conference. Listen to the presenter, show real interest in their offering, ask questions. This will get the attention of others in the booth (like minded people), shows thought leadership, and naturally draws people to you, which makes networking much easier. The company hosting the booth will appreciate the enthusiasm and you’ll stand out in their minds going forward as well." - Matthew Owen, a Chicago-based technology entrepreneur
8) "Leave your RBF in your hotel room and show up smiling so broadly that it starts to feel unnatural. It's amazing how many people will approach you just because you "seem friendly." Super valuable for introverts." - Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs
9) "Know before you go. Search out conference attendees, speakers and sponsors using event hashtags before you attend a conference. Make social media lists of their handles and reach out for a quick meetup while on site." - Sarah Evans, digital correspondent and consultant
10) "Focus on the long game, the things that build relationships, not what is directly ahead of you but where you can create value later." - Jeff Barrett, CEO at Status Creative
11) "Try new things! Don’t be afraid to put on a VR headset (even if you think you look silly or it messed up your hair) or do a demo of some cutting edge tech. I’ve met some incredibly creative and tech-savvy folks doing these demos. It’s good to chat and connect with the folks who are actually building the future." - Cathy Hackl, Futurist, Speaker, and AR VR Expert
12) "Focus on building the personal relationship first, people are more willing to collaborate when they feel there’s a genuine connection." - David Rhodes, expert content creator
13) "Networking at conferences requires a mix of vulnerability and confidence; vulnerability so you can actually form a human connection, and confidence, so you can meaningfully engage in creating value." - Sofiya Deva, VP of Marketing at Zen Media
14) "I always make sure I pick 5 to 10 people to have meaningful conversations with and build lasting relationships. Some of the best clients I have ever had have come from referrals from people at conferences. You never know who you may meet." - Mellissah Smith, Managing Director at the Marketing Eye
15) "My advice for networking for conferences is starting with the right mindset: you aren't there for the conference, you are there for the people which creates the experience and makes the event." - Ross Quintana, Head of Social Adobe Partners and Founder of Social Magnets
16) "I think people over-think networking, my advice is to have your intention be to have fun, laugh, learn and set out to make friends and not be transactional. You’ll feel a lot more at ease and be focused on finding people you truly connect with." - Brandon Groce, Designer and Digital Strategist
17) "Pay attention. Make it more about others at first. Again, listen, learn and interact. Don't forget to leverage the social channels to make virtual connections that can then evolve into in-person relationships there at the event or afterward. Highlight the most significant takeaways or humorous situations to create engaging potential. Most important and probably most difficult today? Be present and involved beyond your devices. What happens in Vegas creates new areas to explore in Vegas!" - Ian Gertler, CMO of Symplegades
Most of the best networking advice is to focus on building strong relationships that stand the test of time - and to grow from there.
I attended the Adobe Summit conference for free but all opinions are my own/the opinions of the above mentioned.