When you go to a conference or big event, do you talk only to your friends or do you reach out to people you don’t know? Do you use the scheduled breaks as time to escape, or do you see them as opportunities to make connections? Conferences and large events are prime opportunities to expand your relationship network. They provide the possibility of meeting new people from your own organization, as well as people from outside of your organization. All of these individuals have the potential to be future clients, colleagues, bosses, referral sources, and friends. The benefits of expanding your network are profound. Be strategic about building relationships at your next event.

Before you go to your next large event, do your research. Find out who is going to be attending and put together a list of people you want to meet. Study the agenda and locale to identify prime times when you can meet people, and then create your strategy for networking. Think about contacting people in advance to schedule a meeting, perhaps for breakfast, drinks, or dinner during the event or the day before or after. Consider how to create opportunities to meet others. You might want to arrive early to a breakout session to meet the speaker, or attend breakout sessions where the people you’ve identified are likely to be. Meet others by sitting next to someone you don’t know, striking up a conversation in the buffet line, or seeking out and talking to someone who asked a great question during one of the sessions. Your goal is not to collect as many business cards as possible, but to begin to make as many meaningful relationships as you can. Following up after the event and continuing the dialogue with value-added interactions is what will turn a promising encounter into a real relationship. Network strategically and build the relationships that will help you create the career you want.

More information on this tip can be found in Lead Your Way: Practical Coaching Advice for Creating the Career You Want

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