11 Networking Tips for the National Conference on Volunteering and Service

May 10, 2012

The National Conference on Volunteering and Service is not only an incredible learning experience, but a unique networking opportunity as well. Conferences can be an intimidating place to make your mark on other attendees, but you’re sure to make an impression when armed with these helpful tips.

  1. Start networking before you even get to the conference – It’s helpful to know who your fellow attendees will be and what their specializations, business, or expertise is. In particular, look up the people who will be presenting at the conference. They are the influencers who can help you get better networked into your targeted industry, and may even be able to share ideas with you or give you a little time to talk through things that you’re working on.
    1. Take the time to visit the presenters’ websites and Twitter pages. They should also have email addresses on their websites. But, if they don’t try to find them on sites like LinkedIn.
    2. If you’re aiming to network with someone working for a company, also research the company’s background.
  2. Learn about the conference and the people who will be there – Take time before you go to NCVS to learn about why it’s being held, the exhibitors, the speakers, the content and the attendees. Learning about why people are there and what they hope to achieve by attending will also help you work out your own angle for approaching people and finding common ground.
  3. Determine why you’re different from everyone else – If you’re in a conference hall with more than 4,000 people all sharing common interests, it’s good to have a reason to stand out.
  4. Find common ground – We all have something in common whether it’s a job, passion or kids. When we find people with whom we share an interest, we share a kinship of sorts and that leads to trust and a smoother conversation.
  5. Ask questions of people you meet – Never lead with your “elevator pitch.” People are more interested in themselves than they are in you, so ask them questions to help them get to spark conversation. Eventually what you do will come into it and if the other party is interested he or she will she’ll ask to learn more.
  6. Utilize social media – Social media can be a valuable tool to maximize the relationships you create at Conference. Follow up with the people you meet on Twitter. Consider making a brief post about your conversation with them. Promoting other people is a great way to create value for them and build the relationship.
  7. But, put your technology away – Do not run to your phone, BlackBerry, or laptop at every break. When you are working on electronics you send the message that you are unapproachable because you are busy. Utilize the time on breaks to converse with others.
  8. Introduce others – When you meet cool people, be the conduit that connects them with others who might be beneficial to them. This includes others at the conference, as well as other people you might know back home. If you ask the right types of questions, you will easily spot connections that can help others. Don’t ever worry about “what’s in it for me,” but instead just be the person who helps others. You will find over time that others will help you too.
  9. Meet a variety of people – Don’t just go for your niche. Meet people who do a variety of different jobs for a variety of different places. You all have the ability to work together or learn from each other.
  10. Network after hours – When attending evening parties and events, be sure to get there early. That way a cluster of conversation builds up around you and you don’t face the challenge of working your way into other clusters like you do if you arrive late.
  11. Follow-up – If you meet interesting people and you never follow-up, it makes no difference. Own the follow-up after you meet people and send them an email (or better yet, a handwritten note) telling them how much you enjoyed talking with them, and plan for future discussions.

The National Conference on Volunteer and Service takes place June 18-20. Register now to join an elite group of practitioners, thought leaders and innovators in Chicago.