By Jodi Harris published September 27, 2021 Est Read Time: 7 min

Content Marketers Share Their Best Networking Tips for In-Person and Virtual Events

People are innately wired to connect and develop relationships – it’s one of our most fundamental needs as humans.

Face-to-face networking at industry events is fundamental for professional survival. (And advancements in virtual events mean face-to-face is no longer synonymous with in-person.)

Whether in the same physical or digital space, you can gain valuable contacts at conferences.

Of course, not everyone is a networking natural; and even the most socially adept conversationalists can struggle to find the right people to talk with, strike up and sustain useful conversations, or turn sparks of interest into solid business opportunities after the event is over.

I’ve pulled some advice collected by Content Marketing Institute friend Aaron Orendorff that still works well today, along with a few more tips from the COVID era.

Prep for success

  • Use the app to look up people you want to meet on Twitter and see who you have in common. Ask for an introduction. Chat prior to the event, so it feels more like a new friend rather than “networking.” – Erika Heald
  • Make a splash before the event. Send greeting cards or make personalized hello videos for EVERYONE you want to meet. – Maneesh Sethi
  • If you prebuild a strong personal brand for yourself, all people will want to do is network with you at conferences. – Leonard Kim
  • Make plans to connect with the people you want to see there before you go. Set a date and time. – Lisa Loeffler
Schedule to meet with people you want to connect with before you go to the conference, says @LisaMLoeffler via @CMContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Make relevant connections

  • If you’re there for sales, ask everybody about themselves first – not just to be a good person, but to qualify them before you start pitching. – Keegan Vance Forte
  • On the conference app I asked, ‘Anyone in the corporate-wellness space? Let me know.’ And they did. – Kevin Christie
  • I love a personalized LinkedIn message saying, ‘Hello, I see we’re both attending X conference.’ – Claire Trévien
Send a personalized #LinkedIn message to introduce yourself to fellow conference attendees, says @Ctrevien via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Draw attention in the crowd

  • Walk up and just make an observation … the first thing that comes to mind. It’s OK to be authentically odd: oddthentic! – C. D. Houston
  • I love bringing my ukulele! Singing songs from people’s home countries together is the perfect #GrowthHack! – Matthias Riedl
  • Ask people if they’re going to the parties. If they say no, get their drink tickets. You just made two (future) friends. – Nadya Khoja
  • Make a statement. Wear some flair. In this era, wear a fun mask. It gives people an opportunity to come up and talk to you. – Lisa Dougherty
Wear some flair or a fun mask. It gives people a reason to come up to talk to you at a conference, says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Engage with speakers

  • To meet someone you follow, wait for a natural break and have a few topics you know they’re interested in to start. – Anna W. Yunker
  • After the event, introduce yourself to speakers with a specific reason you like their blog, book, or presentation. – Roger C. Parker
  • Find out something about the person you’re going to talk to and use that instead of their day job … surprise them. – Billy Connolly
  • With speakers, consume their stuff, comment, and tell them you’re there. I’ll make time for anyone. – Andrew Davis
  • When you really want a speaker’s attention, be the last person to talk to them. – Derric Haynie
To get a speaker’s attention, be the last person to talk to them, says @sixpeppers via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Break the ice

  • When you see someone, and you’re in a group … look at them, reach out, say hi, and have them join your group. – Bill Cushard
  • If you see someone who’s alone, reach out and introduce them to someone else, whether that someone is a good friend or just someone you happened to meet five minutes ago. – Kyle Akerman
  • I always ask what someone’s big goal for attending the conference is: “What are you mainly here for?” –  Brittany Berger
Icebreaker: Ask why they’re attending the event, says @thatBBerg via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Converse

  •  Go to the FRONT row for the most communicative people! That’s where the action is. – Loes van Dokkum
  • Go native and use the app from the conference, not just general social media. This adds to the feeling of being an insider with everyone else, instead of feeling like you’re on the outside, looking in. – Mike Meyers
  • You never know who you’re speaking with, so give each person your full attention! –Rachel Pedersen
  • Stay near the food and the conversation comes to you; plus, it’s far more natural. – Daniel Kingsley Daines-Hutt
Stay near the food at a conference and the conversation will come to you, says @InboundAscend via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Keep conversations flowing

  • After you meet someone, immediately look them up on LinkedIn. You’ll always find some contacts in common. – Andy Crestodina
  • Keep the momentum going … I took it a step beyond just email and created a Slack community to keep the networking alive. – Berrak Sarikaya
  • At the end of every evening, email the people you met that day. It will help cement you in their minds. – Tyler Logtenberg
  • Get a mini Sharpie so you can write notes on business cards. It’s who you talk to and connect with after. – Ashley Stryker
Write notes on the back of business cards so you remember who they are and to contact them after, says @writerstryker. Click To Tweet

Add personal resonance

  • Start a running group. Day 1: 8 a.m. Day 2: 6 a.m. Day 3: 5 a.m. That’ll help you connect on a human level and at a small scale, which is way easier than groups of thousands. – Dominik Grau
  • Don’t treat it like networking. Ask more questions than they do and be interested, not interesting. – Jay Acunzo
  • Take your uniqueness and embrace it. Own it. Use your unique personality as your bridge to connect with others; you might find something cool in common. – Ben H. Rome
Use your unique personality to connect with others, says @BHRome via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Connect virtually

  •  Use the conference app to not only connect with speakers but attendees as well … especially on LinkedIn. – Paula Monroy
  • Ask questions or chat with fellow attendees before the session starts. Send a one-on-one kudos when a fellow audience member asks an interesting or helpful question – Ann Gynn
  • Turn your camera on during networking sessions. Don’t be shy! I know we all hate being on video, but it’s the best way to meet others in the same situation. – Andrea Larick
  • If the event has an app, create a robust profile and include your social media links. – Lisa Dougherty
  • Look for any casual sessions (like Birds of a Feather at Content Marketing World, for example) designed for networking. Prepare an anecdote or tip to share in advance to ease any nerves. Follow up by connecting with hosts or other attendees on social after the event. – Kim Moutsos
  • Hook up your laptop to a TV and watch the conference as if it’s a TV show. It’s easier to stay engaged and not get distracted by emails, etc. – Amie Cangelosi
Virtual conferences? Hook your laptop to the TV. You won’t get distracted by emails, says @AmieCangelosi via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

What are your best networking tips?

Got a secret trick for overcoming your networking anxiety, meeting valuable contacts, or transforming your one-time conversations into lasting marketing partnerships? Let us know how you work the in-person or virtual floor in the comments.

Stay connected with Content Marketing World attendees and speakers throughout the year by following #CMWorld on Twitter.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris is director of content strategy at Informa Connect. She describes her role as a combination of strategic alchemist, process architect, and creative explorer. Jodi previously served as director of editorial content at Content Marketing Institute and spent over a decade developing and managing content initiatives for clients in the entertainment, CPG, health care, technology, and biotech industries, as well as agencies and media brands. Follow her on Twitter at @Joderama.

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