As we head towards the summer, more and more tradeshows and conferences begin to take shape, such as Sage Summit and Epicor Insights. These conferences are not only a good way to expand our education in our industry, technology or how we do business, but they are a great opportunity for us to start networking. Whether networking for you is find more clients or find a new job, there is actually a strategic way you can implement to get the most out of building relationships at conferences.As Dennis Gilbert, a business consultant and speaker at NACM’s Credit Congress, explains, the way we socialize is changing. Whether you like it or not, social media and technology has become a part of how we socialize with others and can play a role in how we build strategic relationships at conferences. However, that isn’t to say we abandon all personal and face-to-face interactions. Read our tips below to find how to strike the right relationship.

  • Set goals for yourself throughout the day. In order to ensure you don’t end up as a fly on the wall, pick a goal for the number of people you can meet for the day. Whether that is just two people or 10. This forces you to break out of your shell and strike up a conversation or two.

  • Before you even leave for the conference or show, be sure to reach out to old acquaintances and see if they will also be attending. Even If you tend to only connect on social media or over the phone, this is a great opportunity to have some face-to-face time.

  • Although you may go into this situation hoping that you will come back with a certain number or leads or new contacts that can help you grow your network, people can easily spot someone who is only in it for themselves. Think about how what you do best can help others and see the strategic relationship grow.

  • During conferences, we often take advantage of our breaks to do things like charge our phones, return missed phone calls or grab a snack and coffee. However, you should be taking full advantage of these breaks to network with others. Make sure that, even though this is conference time-off, you are present. Strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you, or offer to share an outlet with someone while you’re charging up.

  • Most conversations begin at conferences by asking someone what they do. Think about what you do before you go. Prepare to answer with what your company does and what your role in it is. No matter how much a person asks about you, however, be sure to take interest in who they are and what they do.

  • Since social media has now changed the way we interact with people, it is useful to engage these platforms to build strategic relationships at conferences. Facebook and Twitter usually aren’t the best networks for this setting, however Linkedin is a great way to network at conferences. Ask to connect with some of the people you meet.

It’s not very helpful to meet 5 or 10 people and then never engage with them again. There is still some after-conference work you need to do to build strategic relationships. Once you get back, take out all the business cards you collected and add them to your contact lists. Add these people to your Linkedin network and send them a message. Set up a few phone calls with people you really think you connected with and could help, or vice versa.

Building strategic relationships at conferences can make a huge difference in your marketing efforts, sales, networking, job hunt, or whatever your final goal is. Meeting one right person can open up a lot of opportunity. By following some of these tips you can ensure that you won’t go home empty handed.