This week, I attended an amazing sellout networking event, the 28th annual Hotel Leadership Conference by the Master Innholders. Completely buzzing with more than 400 people, it was an incredible opportunity for me to meet influential leaders in UK hospitality and tell them about hertelier.
Reflecting on the two days as I walked home from the event, honestly, I was mad at myself. I felt I missed the mark even though the conference was very well set up for networking. Was I just out of practice? It occurred to me, maybe I am not the only one.
What’s different now? Because of the pandemic, masks make it harder to connect with people in person, and maybe we've all become accustomed to seeing people on a screen.
In an effort to be more intentional for events in the future, here’s a rundown of my mistakes and best practices from my research on networking.
What I did wrong:
Not researching more people to meet/reaching out on LinkedIn /emailing people. I realized after the organization had a list of attendees online. Ooops.
Not asking to meet one of the organizers ahead / or emailing her to get the inside scoop on the event.
Not arranging to meet more of my online connections ahead
I should have taken some pics with people I knew or met to post on social media
What I did right:
Arranged to meet one person I knew was attending ahead
Introduced myself to people at my table during the sessions
Tried to find people I knew (from online connections) at meals and breaks
Approached one of the speakers after she spoke and introduced myself, then followed up
How to do better:
Google "networking tips" and tons of links come up. Here are the three most useful from my deep dive into it:
Prepare. Indeed, the job networking site, suggests 19 steps in "How To Effectively Network at a Conference." To summarize: create a plan, research people to meet, reach out, prepare conversation starters, be present and open, take notes and read name tags!
Be a selfless conversationalist. I am a huge fan of Alex Leiberman, founder of the Morning Brew newsletter, his podcast on having better conversations is a real game-changer. He offers up an 80/20 rule, where you should aim to spend 80 % of the time getting the other person to speak and only 20% of the time talking about yourself.
Use LinkedIn to connect in person with your unique QR code! My favorite tip actually came from a contact at the conference, Sue Williams, General Manager, Whatley Manor Hotel & Spa in the Cotswolds, who is on top of everything environmental. She showed me how to share contacts on LinkedIn via my unique QR code which eliminates the need for printed cards. How to do it:
Go into LinkedIn on your phone
Tap search, on the upper right you will see a small box
Tap the small box and your QR code comes up
OR you can scan someone else’s without the need for business cards!