In-person networking at industry events may not be everyone’s favorite endeavor, but it can be a powerful way to advance your career and build your professional network.
In advance of the 66th CFA Institute Annual Conference in Singapore, I discussed how knowledge building, career exploration, and relationship building are three key career benefits you can achieve from live events. But many people find it daunting to commit themselves to networking at a conference. I thought I might share a few ideas that can make networking at conferences easier and less intimidating.
- Clearly identify what you want to gain from networking. Before setting foot in the conference venue, think about your specific goals for interacting with other attendees. These may include sharpening your understanding of all things bitcoin, finding a group of people you can reach out to for job search support, or connecting with others who enjoy sailing as much as you do. The important thing is that identifying specific objectives helps you stay motivated to network and focused in your interactions. Otherwise, you could be struggling to come up with something interesting to talk about when you randomly sit down next to someone on the couch at the Tuesday night reception.
- Pay attention, and be on the lookout for tools that support your networking efforts. Conference planners know that networking is an essential function of industry events, and they will work to support you. Many conferences offer ribbons or stickers you can add to your badge that match topics of interest. Look for things like table signs at networking lunches and dinners, and use these tools to indicate your own interests and to quickly identify the interests of others.
- Active listening is an important form of participation. Many people dislike networking because they think they have to carry the weight of the conversation or be aggressively self-promotional. In fact, one of the best networking strategies you can employ is active listening. Asking thoughtful questions can help you build connections in a way that naturally makes it about your shared interests.
- Get to places early. It can be overwhelming to walk into a space where everyone is already grouped up and actively in discussion: you feel like you’re awkwardly hanging off to the side of a conversation at best — or outright interrupting to join in at worst. Arriving at locations early (and listening actively, and using the tools provided by conference organizers) allows these groups to form around you.
At the 68th CFA Institute Annual Conference in Frankfurt, career and executive coaches will be available to provide their own top tips and strategies to master networking at conferences. Online registration for the event is closed, but you can follow social media highlights from the event and watch select conference presentations online.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
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