Go Back To Basics For Better Networking – NMP Skip to main content

Go Back To Basics For Better Networking

Like other skills, practice and repetition makes perfect

Erica LaCentra headshot
Insider
Erica LaCentra
Go Back To Basics For Better Networking

With trade shows and conferences ramping up for the summer and into the fall, now is a perfect time to prepare yourself and make sure your networking skills are top-notch. Especially since the pandemic and with virtual interactions being more common, it does feel like interacting face to face has become more challenging in a lot of cases.

However, networking is a skill, and just like any other skill, can be improved with practice. Here are some simple ways to go back to basics and improve your networking skills to make sure you are making the most out of your events.

Make Your Presence Known

Being proactive is always a good strategy for making yourself stand out at conferences and trade shows. If you can scope out an early attendee list this is a great way for you to do outreach ahead of the conference and set up meetings with potential prospects while you are at the event. You can also research which companies and vendors will be onsite so you can make a plan of attack to know what booths you want to visit while you are there to be most efficient with your time on the trade show floor. Making sure you have a well-planned day ensures you are accomplishing everything that you want to at a conference.

On the flip side, if you are a vendor or sponsor at a show, make sure that you are making sure that attendees are aware you will be exhibiting at the conference. Pre-show marketing is crucial to ensure you stand out from the dozens of other exhibitors on the show floor. Sending out emails to pre-attendee lists with opportunities to set up on-site meetings, take advantage of event specials or unique offerings at the show, or watch conference speaking sessions and panel sessions are just some of the ways that you can engage potential clients before you get onsite. These are all great ways that attendees will feel compelled to scope out your company as soon as they get to the conference.

Perfect Your Pitch

Whether you are an attendee, a sponsor, or an exhibitor, having a well-defined pitch about your company is incredibly important to have while you are at a tradeshow or conference. That pitch is what you will be using to sell yourself to potential clients and what you will also be using as a springboard to launch conversations that will allow you to learn more about attendees and other vendors and how you can best work with them in the future.

Once you have your pitch down, make sure you can end your pitch with a leading question. That will help you not only continue the conversation with whoever you are speaking with, but it will also help you learn more about the person’s business and if they are truly in need of your services, and how you can best develop a mutually beneficial partnership. Remember, while it’s great to be able to get business for yourself while attending events, being able to develop long-term partnerships will pay dividends. So doing more legwork upfront rather than a heavy sales pitch is a much better strategy.

Keep It Light

At the end of the day, while you’re at tradeshows and conferences ultimately to do business and get a return on whatever amount of money you’ve spent to attend, exhibit, or sponsor the event, that doesn’t mean that you have to get straight to your sales pitch. Networking and interacting with attendees are as much about them liking your company and you as a person as it is about them liking your products, so take the time to actually get to know people before getting down to business.

People typically like to talk about what they know best, themselves. Ask about the basics: where are they from, is it their first time at this conference, what do they do, etc. This will get people talking and comfortable with you and get a cadence before getting into the nitty-gritty of things.

Also, certain settings at conferences tend to be more conducive to different styles of networking as well. While the tradeshow floor can be more business-oriented and fast-paced pitching, a lot of networking takes place at events off the show floor at dinners, or even at the hotel bar. These environments are much more relaxed and offer more casual conversations for folks to get to know each other and discuss business in a setting where you can often have more meaningful discussions without the pressure of having to run to a session or another meeting, so take advantage of these opportunities even if you are technically “off the clock.”

Rinse and Repeat

As previously mentioned, networking is a skill and like all other skills, takes practice and repetition to perfect. So test out different methods until you find one that works best for you. Developing a solid elevator pitch, and having some prepared opening line or questions to ask attendees will go a long way to making it feel more natural time and time again.

Do your research ahead of time, get yourself ready, pack plenty of business cards and have some fun with it and you’re on your way to having a successful event season.

This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine June 2022 issue.
Erica LaCentra headshot
Erica LaCentra

Erica LaCentra is Chief Marketing Officer for RCN Capital.

Published on
Jun 16, 2022
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