The upcoming Pennsylvania Conference for Women is a well-attended event. There will be prominent speakers, great break-out sessions and of course, tons of networking opportunities.  This year’s headliners include Hillary Rodham Clinton and Madeline Albright. Some of the breakout speakers I am personally excited to see are Tory Johnson. She wrote Spark & Hustle and most recently, Making the Shift. She holds conferences all over the country to help female entrepreneurs I have attended the past few years. On a personal level, a relative of my husbands’ who I really admire is also speaking, Eunice Heath. She is the Global Director for Sustainability Business Engagement and Education at Dow Chemical. She is also a mother of three wonderful children. She is an inspiration!

So how can you meet all of the great women that will be there? You can’t and you shouldn’t try to.

Often in our frenzy to meet as many people as possible and hand out our stack of cards we forget to be in the moment and be memorable.  There are ways you can plan ahead when attending a networking, business or industry conference to maximize your “connecting opportunities.” Looking for a slogan to sum up quality networking? Try Haver’s: Selectivity, discretion, mindfulness.

  1. Be prepared. If there is a list of attendees available pre conference, look it over and pick 3-5 people that are your  “must-meets.” When you arrive at the conference seek them out. If you can’t locate them, ask someone at registration to point them out. Even if the day ends and you’ve only met 4 out of 5 of your people, follow up with all 5. Write an email to the person/people you did not meet in person, explain why you wanted to connect and see if you can set something up post conference.

Also, this may seem obvious but bring business cards! I can’t tell you how many events I’ve been to where people are just starting out, have recently switched gears, are newly unemployed and don’t have any cards and contact information to give out. Also important-don’t run out of cards. I just took my husband to a networking event with me-something I don’t often do- but he has been expressing an interest in wanting to “get out there more.” On the way there he could only locate 5 business cards buried in his wallet. This is NOT the way to go to your event. Even though you may be targeting only a few people, bring a bunch of cards.

During the conference itself, take advantage of breaks- determine where the most people will be and be there! This is not the time to go to the restroom or return calls to the office.

  1. Be ready.  Have conversation starters prepared. Smile. Make eye contact. Make sure your body language is welcoming. Have an idea of what you are looking for as far as referrals, introductions and your “elevator pitch.” But most importantly, be ready to listen. Don’t introduce yourself to someone and then look at who else might be more interesting to talk to in the room.  “When people spend 50 percent of the time looking over my shoulder, I don’t feel warm and fuzzy,” says Sally Haver, a senior vice president at The Ayers Group, an HR consultancy in New York City.” Be in the moment. Make a connection and be memorable. Think about how you can be of service to someone you meet. Show your value. Be a problem solver.

  1. Follow-up. Make sure within 24-48 hours at the most you follow up with people you meet at a conference or networking event. This can be via email but personalize it and make sure there is a call to action. Remind them where you met, mention something you discussed in your interaction, anything to remind them of who you are. Ask them to get together one on one or set up a short phone call to discuss how you might be able to help each other and get to know each other better. If it was a large event and there are many people to follow up with, pick a select few to call or send a personalized note to rather than a follow up email, this will help you to stand out from others.

Finally, when attending a conference take some advice from Keith Ferrazzi,author of Never Eat Alone, ”Those who use conferences properly have a huge leg up at your average industry gathering. While others quietly sit taking notes, content to sip their free bottled water, these men and women are setting up one-on-one meetings, organizing dinners, and, in general, making each conference an opportunity to meet people who could change their lives.”

If you don’t have your ticket to the PA Conference for Women on November 1, 2013 yet, it is sold out for 2013. Please be sure to sign up early for 2014 to be a part of this special day next year!

There is a great online virtual networking opportunity pre-conference as well I would highly recommend. Find out more and sign up here: https://www.brazenconnect.com/event/conference-for-women. During this hour-long session, you will be paired with other PA Conference for Women attendees in text-based chats to share ideas about how to make the most out of the Conference and if desired, set a time to meet in person the day of the conference in the Power Lounge (located in the middle of the Exhibit Hall. The exhibit hall is in Hall B). This is a great way to expand your network and exchange ideas!

I will be working on a post-conference blog on non-traditional networking activities and success stories. For example, a friend of mine recently met someone on Amtrak that ended up retaining her services. As women, there are so many things we do during our busy days that are not formal “networking events” but are great networking opportunities nonetheless. These are things like PTO meetings, the grocery store, church, the gym etc. I will be seeking you all out at the conference to ask you to contribute to this project. Please introduce yourself if you see me and give me your ideas or success stories. I will also be live tweeting at the conference and you can tweet me your responses at @AreYouNetworked @PennWomen.  Please also subscribe to my recently-started networking blog at https://purposefulnetworking.wordpress.com/

Looking forward to meeting you and interacting with you online!

Jennifer Robinson, Esquire, CEO & Founder of Purposeful Networking LLC

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