Tried and True Networking Strategies for Conferences

Conferences and trade shows provide prime opportunities to learn about new finance trends and socialize with people who share your interests. But finance and accounting events are also full of distractions — tons of vendors, hectic schedules, not to mention your smartphone reminding you of work tasks you’re missing.

Here are some tips for financial networking that are sure to show a good return on investment after any event.

What to do at finance networking events:

  • Prepare beforehand. Before going, be active on your social media accounts and make sure your profiles are complete and up to date. Verify you have plenty of current business cards that list your social media accounts. Learn how to tweet if you don’t already; post updates on LinkedIn and Twitter using the conference hashtag, and, after the networking event is over, follow the people you met. If you’re able to obtain a list of who will be attending, prioritize who you’d like to meet to make the most effective use of your time.

  • Be friendly. Even if you’re busy, be approachable. Remember to smile, relax and make eye contact. Get to the conference early to have coffee with other attendees. Morning is the ideal time to make a connection — it’s the quiet before the storm. 

  • Have lunch and dinner with people you don’t yet know. When you invite new contacts to eat with you, ask questions and express an interest in what they do. When you’re engaging in networking, if you focus only on what you can get out of a relationship, others may sense that and draw back.

  • Participate in conference events. After a long day of finance business seminars, the last thing you may want to do is continue the conversations over drinks, but room service and CSI can wait. Many conferences and shows offer post-event social activities sponsored by vendors, and you should participate to get to know your fellow finance and accounting professionals. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation so you don’t fade out early or do anything that might damage your professional reputation.

What NOT to do at financial networking events:

  • Sit alone during seminars. If you’re shy or busy, you’ll most likely want to take an empty seat away from the crowd, but resist this urge. Sit near some other people and strike up a conversation. Ask surrounding peers their thoughts on the session topic, or discuss relevant issues such as accounting trends and finance software. It’s not only a great way to network but also can give you ideas to take back to the office.

  • Skip the vendor expo. When you walk by the vendor exhibition, don’t skip it. Even if you’re not in the market for anything the dealers are offering, ask about their services or products anyway, and make at least one personal connection at each booth and exchange business cards. Many vendors also offer freebies and contests to pique your interest, and there’s no harm in taking advantage of them. You might even win something useful like a free year’s subscription to some new financial software.

  • Get distracted. This conference is important – you took time out of your busy schedule to be here. Now it’s up to you to really be present. Sure, you can keep up with important emails or tweet helpful things you learn in sessions, but now isn’t the time to virtually micro-manage your employees or browse the New York Times Best Seller list. Set your devices to silent and take in the opportunities to learn and interact.

When you’re going to a conference, the experience is about more than just the seminars. Successful networking is practically guaranteed with a little effort when you follow these tips. The personal connections you make could secure you a new vendor, a new business lead or even a new job. 

What is your favorite part of networking events? Let us know in the comments.