Check out these top tips from our regular conference attendees...
It can be a bit unnerving attending a large conference; Where to go? Who to speak to? What to see? etc.
Our 2015 conferences are brimming with great ways to connect delegates with other users. It’s the one time in the year we bring the whole UKOUG community together to network face to face - the most valuable networking possible. But when what you get out of your mingling really does come down to the effort you put in, it can be hard to know where to start when it’s your first time or if your networking skills are a bit rusty.
To arm you with strategies and get you excited about your conference networking experience, we’ve canvassed our regular attendees to find out their recommendations to maximise your networking success.
Engage with people upfront to guarantee time available during the conference. What do you want to get out of your conference visit? Type of information, contacts, etc. What do you expect from the network you're building? Does the other person have the same understanding of networking?
Social networks & event apps
Connect with people ahead of the event to get a headstart on your networking. JDE15 has a LinkedIn conference group and all the events have Facebook events join can join to indicate your attendance. The event apps are a powerful way to connect with people onsite. Use the search facility in the app to find people to connect with. The app also makes suggestions based on shared interests and you can send secure messages to people you want to connect with to arrange to meet up.
The number one top tip from our past delegates – talk to everyone you can when you’re in a queue – that’s where you find the little nuggets of information that pay returns on your conference spend.
Share things you find interesting on your conference adventures on Twitter with the conference hashtag. We’ll be following the hashtags and retweeting so we can help raise your social profile and build your online network ahead of December. Use social media during the event to post your thoughts; it’s surprising what conversations strike up (either electronically or face to face) after tweets have been posted.
We provide pin badges on site to aid your networking. These visible clues help you identify other delegates with similar interests to get your conversations started.
Interactive agenda sessions
It’s a great way to meet people currently experiencing similar issues and you may even find a solution. Use these sessions to your advantage; identify who you want to connect with during the discussions, introduce yourself when you take part so they recognise you when you later hook up to carry the conversation on further.
Not confident in your networking skills? Smart people use the game card as a screen to practice around the exhibition hall. Top tip: on your way round, look out for Partner of the Year Award winner flags, you can use these as an ice breaker/starter for 10 by asking the exhibitor what they won.
Attend the social events
These are the best networking activities of the whole event – the place to really master and build your networking skills. They’re also an opportunity for you to spend some downtime with your connections and have some fun after a hard day of learning. The Community Networking events also have a fun game to help you interact – find out more on the day.
Need a few pointers on how to work a room?
This fun short video from Andy Bounds Online offers some great advice on how to make networking effortless.
Feeling lonely onsite
If you’re struggling with the networking and you need a friend, find a member of UKOUG staff (always found at stand 43) or a UKOUG volunteer (look for the yellow ribbon attached to their badge) – we’re great fun to be around, know heaps of lovely people we can introduce you to and we do genuinely care that you have an amazing conference experience.
A simple "I attended your talk on X, would you mind if I had a chat to you about Y" will usually arm you with more inside information that you'd ever wish for. Of course sometimes a speaker might be on his way to another session but over 3 days and loads of social events you should have some time to have a discussion.
Divide & conquer
If attending as a group split up – you can cover more ground. Plus, individuals are more approachable than a group of people.
Break the ice
Don't sit back and wait for people to approach you - take advantage of natural opportunities for introductions. For example, the person you are sitting next to at a session; when asking questions during sessions state your name and role; introduce yourself to session speakers afterwards "really enjoyed your session on xyz". Once you've broke the ice you'll be away!
Don't be afraid to join in
When visiting the partner stands listen in on conversations or better still contribute to them.
Make good use of your existing connections
Engage with the speakers, organisers and staff; particularly if you want them to broker an introduction to someone. They will be more than happy to facilitate introductions.
When registering there’re always people milling around some of who will be in the same situation as yourself. Look out for First Timer symbols on badges – it’s a great opportunity to strike up a conversation "Is this your first time at UKOUG?".
Quality is better than quantity
Don't beat yourself up that you don't seem to have met many people; but make sure that those that you have engaged with have been quality conversations - don't forget your business cards! If you don't have business cards or run out then don't be shy to pass your contact details.
Networking doesn't end when you leave a conference, it’s a continuous interactive process so arrange to follow up and make sure you action it. Connect on social media channels, keep an eye out for their blog posts and generally interact with your new connections online as well as face-to-face to strengthen and develop your relationships.
Consider visiting every stand in a conference exhibition hall if you have time. Just because you haven't heard of a particular exhibitor doesn't mean they don't have something to offer that could be of tremendous value to you and your organisation. You can arrange a post event follow-up session to go into more detail without making any commitment.
Above all else... smile!
Networking will be 10 times easier if you look friendly and approachable.
Have we missed something? If you’re a seasoned networker we'd love to hear any additional tips you have, feel free to share them below.