In today’s business world there are more networking tips and tricks than you can shake a lanyard at, but what is it that really counts when it comes down to making connections at conferences?
We’re blessed in the travel industry to get so many fantastic opportunities to meet and network with people all over the place at conferences and events.
Our chances to connect with our peers come in many forms. From travelling to and from the event, to the break out sessions, lunches and dinners, drinks and gala dinners for starters. But what you may not know is that often, the best networking of all comes after hours.
So if you’re into that kind of thing (and I’m guessing you are or you probably wouldn’t be working in the travel industry) you know it can be a lot of fun with the opportunity to make solid business connections and friends for life. But it can also be alienating, career threatening and utterly exhausting if you don’t play your business cards right.
Here’s 6 late night pro tips from a friend I know who I consider to be quite good at this kind of thing.
1. Stay out later
This first tip is perhaps the most crucial of all.
Remember this. Life is short. Nothing good ever happened to anyone because they left the function early to go to bed at 9.15pm.
Yes we know you’ve got to get up early tomorrow. We all do. Maybe you’re presenting. You know your stuff, you’ll be fine. We’re with you all the way.
Staying out later gives you a green card to a whole new brave world of possibilities and the chance to meet people you might not ordinarily get to connect with.
Yes there will be alcohol. Possibly quite a bit. But the point is that your peers will be much more relaxed and you could meet influential people who you’ll share an amazing experience with to be remembered forever. Which quite frankly, will go much further than a handshake and a business card exchange probably will at morning tea.
So stretch your networking legs and get into it. Hit the dancefloor and have a laugh. Yes the dancefloor could be your networking haven, even if you can’t dance. Often, just being there is enough.
Just remember to set both an alarm and a wake up call from hotel reception or things could go terribly wrong tomorrow.
2. Do your research. Lead the way
Everyone loves a leader. Someone who confidently is that person in the know on all things late night, especially at interstate or overseas events.
Before you leave, research online the best places to go (especially inside and near the venue) and the most accessible places for a diverse group. Why wouldn’t you anyway? You may want to go there yourself with some colleagues or entertain your clients on another night.
Because whilst many fellow delegates may be potentially thinking about tailing off to bed when the function bar lights come on too early, when word gets out that you’re leading a group of happy campers to the coolest joint in town which opens late and plays great music – it’ll be on!
Even better, it’s only a five-minute walk from the hotel so only a few too drunk stragglers will get lost on the way. All of a sudden you’re the pied piper leading the crowd on to fun times and more connections to be made. See you at the bar you legend!
3. Don’t be tight arse
Speaking of the bar, this is an obvious one but seriously – no one likes a tight arse.
So don’t be that person that seems to wait til’ the very end of the night to meekly offer up a round, hoping that it’s time to go home and your round will be the cheap one.
Some industry karma is required here, which involves paying it forward and doing the right thing. So get in there and buy up for your group first.
The people who held back will be respectful and the usual alpha’s you beat to the bar will love you for it. Take the role of host or hostess and you’ll already be making a name for yourself as generous and memorable. Which sure beats Mr tight and aloof standing over there warming the same beer they’ve had for 3 hours.
4. Take photos; send them to your new friends
Because you’re aligning yourself with people through the same cool experiences, often in amazing places and getting to do things most people would never get the chance to – you’ll want to capture the memory forever.
Everyone there will. Except not everyone can take a good photo.
So firstly get good at taking snaps on your phone, then make sure you are the one taking plenty of people snaps in the moment. Why wouldn’t you anyway? This is awesome!
Just remember, not everyone will want to be your friend on Facebook or certainly tagged into your shots for all to see back home. Harmless as they may be, the camera generally never does lie, which could leave some explaining for your colleagues if any of them said that, actually they were in bed by 9.45. Not a good networking outcome.
Our non-industry fiends will never understand. It’s ok, we get it.
5. Be responsible, always
Many have dominated the networking marathon only to fail miserably close to the finish line by peaking too soon and forgetting that this is actually a work event, not a weekend in Ibiza.
Don’t be that person who was really fun and engaging an hour ago and is now asleep with their mouth open in the corner, seemingly out of it for all to see.
Go with the flow, pace yourself, drink plenty of water (you do have to get up tomorrow too remember) and be respectful of those around you and of why you are there in the first place. This is still work and you’re being paid to be there. Currently.
Keep it that way.
6. Be social not salesy
Yeah of course we’re all here on business, but this wee hour is not really the time to lay on your Wolf of Wall Street sales pitch unless it’s a far more visually jazzed up and entertaining version.
This is after all your opportunity to actually get to know people and make more meaningful and longer lasting connections given everyone is relaxing somewhat. This is why you love this industry.
So put yourself out and get to know people a bit better. Ask lots of questions. Where they’re from and what they want to do in life, or it could just be a bit more banal banter like “Do you love this Rhianna tune too?” As you wave your hands in the air together. Whatever feels comfortable in that moment.
Whatever you say, just don’t be boring and talk too much work – or worse still – company politics. This could backfire on you badly so keep it positive.
First up you will undoubtedly have had an amazing time and enjoyed some more of the most memorable experiences in your life (ok maybe not the day after). For all those fellow party people that you shared them with, they’re now family to you. Both in business and through a shared experience that goes beyond work.
People do business with people they like remember. It’s a fact.
These are the stories that will form the fabric of your very being in the industry. But more than anything, you can leave the event knowing you gave meeting new people your best shot and enjoyed every last second of the event.
What’s your top late night networking tip? Share your best ones below!
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