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Your conference survival guide

Your conference survival guide

Nicola Hopes

6 July 2022

Does the idea of ‘networking’ make you feel a tad queasy? You’re not alone. 

For many people it feels dated. Old school. And very alpha #diversity  

But, if you’re anything like me, you’re now going to a lot more face-to-face events than you have in the last 2 years. The pre-summer awards, events and conference calendar is in full swing.  

And the dreaded networking has reared its ugly head.  

As a leader you know it’s important to hear from people in your industry to get ahead of trends. To know people who do similar work, so you have people to talk to. And that a good network is worth its weight in gold when finding talent. 

Yet, I know that speaking to many clients, not everyone finds it easy to go to those events and build that network. 

So, here’s your survival guide to (hopefully) keep the queasiness to a minimum.  

For me even the term ‘networking’ makes my eye twitch involuntarily, so I never use the phrase for anything I do… because if I did, I’d rebel against it.  

If I’m keeping in touch with someone I’ve worked withit’s because they do cool things I want to hear about or they have interesting ideas. 

If I’m going to an event I’m going to meet people who have experiences I can learn from. Or people who have the same challenges as me. Or to hear opposing views that challenge me. Or to just meet folk who have a new take. 

And when I look at it that way, why wouldn’t I want to do it? 

And when I’m in the room, I’m clear about why I’m there. 

If I’m sussing out an organisation that I want to do business with or become a member of I’m casing out their quality. Am I in a beautiful room with delicious refreshments? Or have they shoved us into the smallest room they could, with a warm Sauvignon Blanc and a curly sandwich? 

If I’m there to hear an amazing specific speaker… I make a bee line to catch them afterwards, usually with a specific response to a point they’ve made to start a proper conversation. You don’t get very far with ‘great speech’ because you’ve nowhere to go after they’ve thanked you for the compliment. 

If you still need some convincing to pop some shoes on and go to the damn event, feel free to turn it into a game of conference bingo. How many of these you can spot? 

  • The sales bore – this person hasn’t even bothered to find out what your role is or what your challenges are before they tell you that their product or idea will absolutely solve all your problems 
  • The soap box – this person has something they want to say. And they’re going to say it. Again, and again. They’ve no interest in who you are or what you do 
  • The name-dropper – this person simply has to tell you about the conversation they’ve had with either: the influential person in your organisation; the famous politician; the legendary person in your industry 
  • The hanger-on – this person has no real idea what the event is about, they just can’t resist the word ‘free’ when put it in front of the words ‘drink’, ‘lunch’, or ‘dinner’. 

In all cases, be ready with the urgent text you’ve just received, or the quick call you need to make to weave your way out of the corner they’ve backed you into. 

Go on. It’ll be easier than you think, I bet you.  

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