Women In Business

7 tips for better networking at conferences

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How can career-driven women maximize the conference experience with networking? Conferences can be a little overwhelming. And for many women in the workforce, conferences can feel more overwhelming than they need to. Why’s that? Simply put, conferences and the workplace share many antiquated traditions, such as being male-dominated spaces in which women’s voices are valued less.

But while there is still much work to be done to establish a true balance there, the career and conference worlds have come a long way. Today’s women have many champions for their participation in all levels, fields, and functions of the workplace; and this includes the conference circuit.

1. Research

Getting some research done before you head to the conference will help you shape your networking goals and instill a little extra confidence heading into it. You have a chance to find out who the attendees and speakers will be, and set priorities for who you want to meet. It’s also a good idea to gather some additional background info in order to have some conversation starters or questions prepared.

2. Ask more questions

One of the best ways to make you more memorable and leave a favorable first impression is to ask questions. Ask thoughtful questions that elicit more than a yes-or-no answer. It demonstrates that you have a genuine interest and respect for the person you are meeting. You won’t get much depth out of a fleeting connection and standard business card exchange, so really take the time to cultivate professional relationships by learning about new people.

3. Collaborate

Many conferences and discussion groups will schedule in time for some sort of collaborative activity. Rather than sitting it out, embrace it. It’s a chance to expedite the friendship-building process while showcasing your talents. It should also be acknowledged that asking for help is a big part of collaboration. While many women fear that seeking help will make them seem weak, it is paramount to success on an individual and group level. So go ahead, ask!

4. Host an off-site

While you’re surrounded by so many talented professionals, take the opportunity to facilitate further socializing. Whether it’s a dinner or drinks, hosting a little gathering of your own will give you achance to build on budding relationships. For added camaraderie, host a ladies-only get together. The conference circuit can also be an escape for some, including mothers who work from home to women who are self-employed to corporate CEOs, so your offer will likely be received well. Just be sure to keep the attendance at a manageable size in order to have time to chat with everyone.

5. Share your goals

In networking scenarios, or even in your day-to-day life, you may feel compelled to keep your personal aspirations secret. Perhaps this is because of a fear of disappointment or seeming arrogant. Instead, try owning your aspirations. Let others know what your plans are. You’ll probably even encounter other women who share your career goals, which is a great opportunity to swap advice.

6. Keep the connection fresh

One of the biggest pitfalls to operating strictly on the conference circuit is that the conferences may not be all that frequent (or you won’t encounter the same connections more than once). So rather than filing all those new business cards away, stay in touch with the people you met. Connect with them on social media, invite them to your workplace functions, or even socialize outside of a vocational context. You can even make meaningful introductions when appropriate, and your connections may do the same for you, and therefore constantly expanding your network.

7. Network with the men, too

While focusing on networking with other career-driven women is a critical step in promoting gender equality in the workplace, men are not to be left out of the equation. Speak to some of the male conference attendees and don’t be afraid to shine. Unabashedly articulate your ambitions, skills, and conference goals.

You may have noticed a few themes between many of these tips: visibility, camaraderie, and communication. Important components of career success for anyone, these themes can also apply in other ways for women, in a world where men have traditionally had the upper hand. So embrace these qualities not just for yourself, but also for all the career-minded ladies out there. You’ll help to even the playing field.

About Kelly Smith

Kelly Smith works at CourseFinder.com.au, an Australian online courses resource. She also provides career advice for students and job seekers and works as a freelance writer.

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