Work Conference? 6 Ways To Network Like A Pro

Last Updated Sep 27, 2011 10:52 AM EDT

Have you ever been to a big conference or meeting for work and felt like it was a waste of time? That's too bad, but not uncommon. Whether it's a company team-building day or an industry-wide, week-long event, these are exceptional opportunities for networking. They can also be, unfortunately, ineffective and/or overwhelming.

Through On The Job, I've met some networking pros who gracefully maneuver their interactions from Twitter to email to phone to face-to-face meetings. They all seem to always be coming and going from some inspiring conference or another. So I asked them, what are your very best work conference networking tips? Follow them, and you'll be networking like a pro in no time.

1. Do Your Homework "Figure out who's going to be at the work conference, who you'd like to connect with, and some talking points so that when you do meet with a fellow industry member, you have the background knowledge to engage with them to the fullest." -- Mary Marino, founder of EmploymentPipeline.com
2. Identify The Right People "Find some people that share similarities to your business/position in your company and which are focused on some of the same things you are in terms of professional development. You can start a small mastermind group to support and drive your goals." -- Kimberly Schneiderman, founder of City Career Services
3. Listen With Intent... "You should be listening a little more than 80 percent of the time during the conversation. Paraphrase what the person said, just so they know that you are truly listening to them. Even if you're just asking questions and listening with minimal conversation, you are being an active networker." -- Heather R. Huhman, founder of Come Recommended.

4. ...And Watch Your Audience "Keep your eyes on the person you are conversing with at the moment. There is nothing more frustrating to a person than seeing you scan the room for people you know." -- Heather R. Huhman

5. Ask To Participate "Ask what it takes to become a speaker at the conference. Being a speaker automatically puts you in the eyes and minds of the attendees. That will open a whole world of opportunity for you." -- Kimberly Schneiderman

6. Follow Up "An easy way to remember who you met and what you talked about is to write down some points of interests on the person's business card. That way, when you follow-up on Twitter or through e-mail, you can reference those points and bring your conversation to the forefront of their minds." -- Mary Marino

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.