#Bookkeepcon20 is the 10-year celebration of the Institute of Certified NZ Bookkeepers and we are aiming for it to be a standout event!
As well as educational sessions, #Bookkeepcon20 will introduce delegates to a variety of conference sponsors and exhibitors – which brings with it a vast amount of industry related professionals who all want to talk to you.
We recognise that not everyone is comfortable networking, so we have gathered our top 7 tips to help you prepare and gain the most advantage out of attending the event:
1. Know your networking goals
Do you want to meet an industry leader who can become a valuable mentor? Do you want to find potential colleagues to work with? Having a clear goal in mind will make networking less ambiguous and lead to more effective connections.
First ask yourself: “Who do I want to meet, and why?”. Did you see a person or company on an event webpage that you’ve been hoping to connect with? A great starting point would be to look up that person on LinkedIn to learn a little bit more about them and connect with them to arrange a time to meet at the event.
2. Start a conversation
Your first connection at any event is your gateway to meeting more people. Maybe they came with friends they can introduce you to, or maybe you’ll decide to break into bigger groups together. Whoever you approach first, relieve some of the awkwardness with informed, relevant conversation starters to get in the swing of things together. Approaching a big or small group can be intimidating, but with the right approach, you can join in on an existing conversation or start your own successfully. Ease into it by introducing yourself to one person who is also flying solo and looking for someone to talk to. Read up on industry news and trends beforehand so you are prepared to spark conversation and ask for their thoughts on topics that are interesting to both of you.
3. Introduce yourself to someone who is a big deal
We sometimes walk into networking events with high hopes of meeting the CEO of a company we admire, or the author of a favourite book. We’re so thrilled to be in the same place as them, but suddenly, you spot them across the room and become nervous, awkward, and — who knows — maybe even a little bit sweaty. So how can you successfully strike up a conversation with this mini celebrity from your industry without making a total fool of yourself?
Remember that you admire this person because you respect their thought leadership; give them a chance to admire you too, by sparking an interesting and relevant conversation. First and foremost, make sure you have purpose. Butting into their conversation to tell them you love their work, or admire their approach to business, will not invite stimulating conversation. In fact, it is more likely to evoke a simple “thank you.” Consider what it is about this person that resonated with you, and tie it in to your work, projects, or philosophy. Approach them with confidence, introduce yourself not as a fan, but as an equal (because you are), and say something thought-provoking that they can relate to, like, “I loved your article on client retention; I reference it all the time. You wrote it a few years ago — is there anything you would add now that some time has passed?”
4. Don’t let your conversation lose steam
Often, we meet someone and exchange our name, company, job title, and where we grew up in about three minutes. Then we smile, look at the ground, and say something like, “the weather is great today.”
When the small talk is up, it’s easy for the conversation to go south. Avoid this by making them the topic of conversation. You might be on the verge of an awkward silence at a networking event, but if you referenced a project you know they’re working on, you will likely be met with a genuine, “Let me tell you about that.” Remember that the person you are talking to is in the same boat as you. They do not want to the conversation to awkwardly fizzle out, either. And everyone loves to talk about themselves. You may be thinking, “How can I make connections if we just talk about them the whole time?” Showing genuine interest in another person can say more about you than talking about yourself. Besides, if a person does not reciprocate the behaviour and encourage you to tell them about yourself afterward, then they probably were not a valuable connection to begin with. Next time a conversation is flailing, ask for them to elaborate, and you will find talking points you could expand on and run with.
5. Ask for something without scaring someone off
The highlight of networking events that we all fantasize about is leaving with a concrete exchange that will move our business or career forward. Maybe it is a job offer, getting an investor on board, locking down a recommendation letter, or landing a client you have been after for months. Whatever the highlight, it is not going to fall in our lap. We can play all the right cards to set us up for the big moment, but a time will come when we need to put ourselves out there and firmly express what we want. How can we do this without sounding aggressive? Consider your answer to the classic job interview question “Why should we hire you over the other candidates?” You come up with a true, succinct, humble, and exemplary answer of why you are the right person for the job. Your approach to getting what you want from networking isn’t all that different, except it is important to express your flexibility. A combination of flexibility and confidence in getting the job done is a brilliant way to frame your next big ask. Be firm on what you want but be clear that what you want is mutually beneficial.
6. Exit a conversation gracefully
It is important to remember that networking is not like speed-dating. The goal isn’t to meet as many people as you can — it is to make valuable connections. While it is important not to rush through conversations for this reason, there are times when we need to jump ship. Whether you are chatting with someone who won’t let you get a word in or someone who is expressing their unhappiness about a situation, you should still be polite when ending the conversation. If there is a lull in conversation, say, “Please let me know how that project goes, I would love to see it and hear how it turns out.” This will show you were engaged, and though it ends the conversation in the moment, they are not likely to feel offended. Or ask them, “Have you seen anyone from [company name]? I’ve been meaning to chat with them.” This will kindly express that it is important to you to expand your network.
7. Connect soon after the event.
After the event, follow up with your new contacts. Remind them who you are and revisit the topics you chatted about. Following up with a personal connection helps you differentiate and solidify the relationship. To build a strong relationship, it is always good to strike while the iron’s hot. The sooner you follow up with them, the more likely your connections will remember the conversations you had at the event. Connect with your new contacts on LinkedIn, chances are you got their business card, so that will make it easy to find them on LinkedIn.
If you need help remembering whose who: write a little note on their business cards to remind yourself of what you talked about, and include that info in your connection message.
Put your new networking skills to the test
#Bookkeepcon20 is the annual conference for New Zealand bookkeepers – this event is invaluable to business professionals to come together and learn the latest industry news and be inspired by our keynote speakers.
The two-day conference event is followed by a celebratory Awards and Gala Dinner evening which sees our annual Excellence Awards presented to winners.
Now that you have some great tips on how to network, why not click here to find out more and register your attendance >