Technology and social media have changed the face of events. In the past, you would go into an event blind-folded as to whom you would meet. Now you can see who is attending an event via Facebook, LinkedIn, or one of the many amazing event software technologies out there—etouches, for example (shameless plug).
Let’s look at the old way of networking, the new way of networking, and what is not working by today’s standards.
The foundation of communicating at networking events and making new connections include the following two principles:
1. Business card exchange
2. Good ole’ fashion mixing and mingling
Business Card Exchange
To start, business card exchanges are the most notoriously known way of exchanging contact information. Yes, it works, but you have to be driven, dedicated, and most importantly, follow up to make it work. With new technology, the extra steps of data-entry are eliminated—which is usually the most time-consuming portion of taking the initiative to send that follow-up “Nice to meet you” email.
Old way: Exchanging business cards at events.
Not working: For those folks who run out of business cards at events, this method does not work. Modern technology is definitely needed and useful in this type of situation.
New way: Whether it’s using a sharing-contact-information app, like “Bump,” or using more intuitive event tools, like Badge2Match, connecting with other professionals at live events is easier than ever. Badge2Match asks users to fill out a survey; the answers are used to “introduce” event attendees to others who share similar interests.
Old way: Mingling can be tricky. To be successful, you need to have a certain type of personality that requires an extroverted demeanor and the ability to strike interesting conversation with anyone that you approach. Additionally, you need to have that special knack of knowing when to move on from a conversation and how to wrap it up to get the business card or contact information.
Not working: People whose personality type is introverted, who are shy and not as bold, mingling is not a preferred method of networking, thus making it a “not working” approach.
New way: Mingle 360 is a tool with so much versatility: mobile app, QR code integration, iPad integration, as well as USB “Mingle stick” ability. Their mantra is: The Mingle360 networking solution creates incredible buzz and excitement for your events. The MingleStick is a great social icebreaker and business utility tool.
While mingling and exchanging business cards are the most notoriously known ways to network, the best approach often depends on the type of event.
1. Reception Parties
2. Educational Conferences
Old way: How do you break the ice in a noisy professional environment? Most professionals would buy drinks (if there was no open bar) to entertain a prospect. Some might dance (If they have some stellar dance moves) and others might just join a table to meet others or prospective clients.
Not working: Buying drinks or dancing like a fool sure does open a Pandora’s box of embarrassment: clearly a tactic that doesn’t work while networking at reception parties. Getting obscenely drunk is also not a wise way to build a professionally fruitful relationship.
New way: Converve is not just networking software for larger conferences, but is a great for the receptions within a larger event. The company considers themselves as the premiere matchmaking software. This concepts works: you can build relationships at daytime events that can then translate to familiarity at nighttime events.
Old way: Educational events can be the hardest events for networking. The old method and standard room set at education events entails a theater-style seating arrangement with speakers on stage and audience members listening but not necessarily interacting with each other.
Not working: It is a shame that many professionals in attendance at the same education session most often share the same interests and objectives. By not promoting interaction, the old way of seating attendees is just not working!
New way: Conference/event-specific software like CrowdVine help the event’s attendees connect prior to the start of the event. It integrates Facebook and LinkedIn for attendees to see which of their contacts are attending the show, features attendee profiles, and encourages group communication. This way, again, you start establishing relationships and building a rapport with people in advance. Another new way of networking at education events is simple: how the education session is set-up. Interactive panel discussion set-ups help attendees engage in conversations with speakers as well as fellow attendees.
Old way: Tradeshows often operate like marketplaces with a smorgasbord of exhibiting companies. Attendees can choose to pass by an exhibitor, making it very difficult for companies to network with business prospects. Hosted buyer programs have solved this issue, but only slightly. The deep connection or relationship may not be there because hosted buyers can choose to skip their appointment or only meet to satisfy their quota.
Not working: These traditional ways that tradeshows are operating do not yield results for those exhibitors investing hundreds of dollars to get in front of the right buyers.
New way: In today’s event technology landscape there are many solutions that solve this tradeshow conundrum so exhibitors can have the best sales and networking experiences possible. A great option is Showmappr, which optimizes the tradeshow experience with a dynamic event map that shows different levels of activity, live stream of comments from attendees, QR check-ins for exhibitors, and more. Using buzz-producing apps like this one gives attendees an incentive to visit and learn about exhibitors.
The list of technology and software solutions goes on and on. Along with utilizing social media as a tool to connect—whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn–networking with business professionals is more efficient than ever before. Couple online interaction with face-to-face interaction and the combination is irrefutable. Ramping up rapport with a key professional on social media first, then in person, is a new normal, and a smart tactic to apply for successful networking. The amazing software tools highlighted above can be found, compared, and contrasted with other event industry tools via Meetingpool.net’s Event Tech Decision Engine.
What online and offline tactics work best for you when networking? We want to hear your success stories!
Michelle lives, eats and breathes marketing for the event and meeting industries. Known as the “Event Marketing Maven” and a consummate social media/ online marketing enthusiast. Her innate ability lies in helping companies create an online presence through smart and engaging marketing strategy. Her company’s client portfolio includes many influential event planners, suppliers, and small businesses in Central Florida and beyond. With an intensive 10 + year background in advertising, marketing and communications, she brings innovative design and savvy marketing approach to all her client projects. As a national speaker and educator on social media for event businesses and at events, Michelle is passionate about lending her expertise in contributing to international blogs, renown local and national publications. She has been featured in Fast Company, Crains New York Business, Special Event Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Orlando Weekly, and BizBash.
Written by: Michelle Bergstein- Fontanez