Heading to a staffing industry conference?
For many professionals in the staffing industry, the idea of networking can be daunting.
What if you don’t know anyone there?
How do you approach a group of strangers?
How do leave a conversation with a new connection?
Even seasoned conference-goers can benefit from brushing up on their networking chops.
As you head to your event, TempWorks is sharing tips and tricks to help you maximize your conference time.
But first, what exactly is networking, and why is it important?
Networking is more than just small talk; it’s the act of building meaningful, mutually beneficial connections. Successful networking happens when you approach others with genuine interest in who they are and what they do.
Whether you’re a networking pro or beginner, networking is an important way to:
- Strengthen your existing connections
- Understand the current conversations in the staffing industry
- What are the current trends within staffing?
- What technology is impacting the market?
- What tools can improve your business and increase your talent?
- Grow your business opportunities
- Find new career prospects
- Gather new tips and tricks for your particular role
- Share insights and strategies with others
Networking is key to advancing your career, the success of your company, and the staffing industry as a whole.
That’s why we’re sharing 14 strategies for how to network at your next conference:
Step into a conference knowing what you want to get out of your networking.
- Are you early in your career and looking for a new mentor?
- Are you a recruiter looking to connect with others in your field to exchange tips and tricks?
- Are you a business owner looking for new talent to grow your business or new tools to reach talent in new ways?
Many networking opportunities will happen outside of conference sessions, so make sure you’re around to be part of the action.
When you stay at the conference hotel, you’re more likely to get invited to spontaneous outings or conversations. It also makes it easier to ensure you are rested for the next day of sessions and networking.
Is there anyone in particular on the agenda you’re interested in learning from? What contacts are listed in your conference app? Do you know others who are attending? If there is someone you would like to connect with, consider reaching out to them in advance to schedule time to meet up.
If you’re looking for TempWorks, we’ll have a booth (515) in the Expo Hall. Come find us!
Maintaining relationships is just as vital as building new ones. Many of your existing contacts may be attending the same conference as you. If you haven’t spoken to someone in some time, aim to meet up with them at the event.
You can reach out and schedule a coffee chat, or look for them organically at one of the conference networking events. They may have new ideas or opportunities to share (and you might, too!).
Whether a conference is online or in-person, there are often built-in networking opportunities. Check your conference program for potential networking opportunities.
Many attendees find it intimidating to approach others at a conference. Stay off your phone or other electronic device, and keep the headphones out.
Distractions serve as barriers, making you seem unavailable for a conversation and deterring others from approaching you. To build relationships and find new opportunities for yourself or your company, you’ll want to seem open to meet new people.
For some, going up to a group of people is easy. For others, it can feel like the lunchroom on the first day of school all over again. If this is you, there are three tricks for breaking past the networking anxiety.
Look for another solo attendee. Is there someone else who seems to be on their own? Someone waiting for a drink at the conference bar, or looking around the room? Approach them and ask a question to kickstart a conversation. (They’ll probably be relieved, too.)
Identify an odd-numbered group—ideally 3. Often, there is someone who feels less included in the conversation who would welcome a 4th person to talk to. To insert yourself, try asking a question about the topic they are discussing.
If you see someone you know, go up and greet them—even if they’re in a conversation with others. If it’s been a while, remind them where they know you from. They will likely introduce you to others they are speaking with.
At a big conference, you’re likely to make many new connections. When meeting dozens of new people over the course of 1-3 days, it can be difficult to remember who they are or what you discussed.
Take notes throughout the conference to keep a record of who you met, what you talked about, what panels you attended, what ideas interested you most. This way, you’ll be prepared when you go to follow up with people after the conference.
It’s advice you hear time and again, and for good reason. People can sense when you are not being genuine or when you’re putting on a persona.
No small talk? No problem. There’s no need to chat about the weather. Share what interests you, especially if it’s something unusual.
There’s also no singular way to be at a conference: If you’re shy, you don’t need to pretend to be outgoing. If you’re usually more serious, there’s no need to pull out the jokes. Bring your true self, adapt your networking strategy based on your personality, and trust that you’re enough.
One of the best ways to get others to open up is to ask them questions. This is also handy if you’re uncomfortable talking about yourself. Try out one of these in your next conference interaction:
- Where are you from?
- What brings you to this conference?
- What’s your role at your company? What are some of the biggest challenges in that role?
- What have you been up to lately?
- What do you like to do outside of work?
- What staffing software does your company use?
- What recruitment tools are helpful for you?
- What new ideas are you trying out?
- What’s something interesting you’ve learned at the conference so far?
- Have you read any good books recently, whether about the industry or just for yourself?
- What was your favorite session so far?
- What tools do you find most helpful in your role?
It’s important to practice networking, but it’s equally important to make sure you are creating meaningful relationships—not just chatting up everyone.
Focus on building a rapport with a few key people. When you have a more personal interaction, you’re more likely to be remembered. It’s not always about getting facetime with an industry bigwig, either; some of the strongest, most valuable networking opportunities happen when you aren’t trying to impress anyone.
Finally, big events can leave networking interactions feeling rushed. Everyone has somewhere they need to be. Try to plan lunches and dinners with small groups or individuals to leave yourself time for a longer discussion.
Conferences pack a lot into a short amount of time. You have sessions to go to, breaks to take, and people to connect with—but sometimes it’s hard to know how to politely leave a conversation. To make a quick exit, try one of these phrases:
- “I’m so glad we had a chance to connect. I have to get going, but here’s my business card.”
- “I’m off to grab another drink, but it was great chatting with you.”
- “It’s been great catching up. I need to say hello to a few others, but I hope to see you at the next session.”
- “I don’t want to take up all of your time, so I’ll be going. Enjoy the rest of the event.”
If you’re someone who is always comfortable in group conversations, pause to look around the room and see who isn’t speaking with anyone. Call over to them and ask a question related to what your group is discussing.
Who knows? You might have made a valuable new connection.
Conference attendees meet a lot of new faces. Reach out to them soon after your first interaction to help them remember who you are and to stay connected.
Be sure to connect on LinkedIn within 24 hours, and consider following up via LinkedIn or email once you’re back home.
If you’re looking for someone to talk to at the event, or would like to learn about technology to support your business, stop by and chat with our TempWorks team! And be sure to connect with us on social media.