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How to Network Like a Pro

This post on learning to network like a pro was inspired by my experience networking at FinCon19. The FinCon community has offered many post-conference articles and roundups that demonstrate the power of this gathering of money nerds, influencers, and brands. Each time I’ve mentioned FinCon in this article, I have linked to a post by a member of the community that offers a different perspective on the magic of connecting at FinCon.

Let’s Face it… Networking at Conferences Can be Awkward

We’ve all attended a conference and suddenly realized we were alone.  No colleagues, no bosses, no friends. It’s like the first day at a new school again, everyone knows each other, and you know no one.  This can be a terrifying situation. You might think you’re being awkward, weird, a spectacle, or that no one sees you at all.

Of course, all these thoughts and emotions are just in your head.  You probably look like the average guy in slacks and a dress shirt with a huge name tag and your name spelled wrong.  Or you might be the average woman in a dress, heels, make-up, hair-done and somehow super overdressed for this casual conference where everyone else showed up in jeans. 😳

No matter what, almost everyone has that moment of “oh shit! I’m at a conference and I need to talk to people.  Or… can I avoid talking to people for 4 days 🤔??”

All of those emotions are going through everyone’s head.  Even the pro-networkers have their anxieties about meeting so many people.  Some of us germaphobes also have anxiety about shaking so many hands over and over again for several days.  Never mind that you usually lose your voice by the time the conference is over.

Reality Check from a Networking Pro

I am one of those “pro-networkers”, trained by mentors to put your printable sticker name tag on the left side of your chest so people shaking your hand right hand can easily read your name.  My alter ego “networking queen” was recently outed at FinCon19 when my secret skills for building my network were noticed by several other conference attendees. Somehow, I became known as a “networking pro” during the first day of the conference and had several people say “hey I heard about you from…” or I was introduced as “the pro-networker Wendie”. 

Several people asked me how I remembered their stories, their faces, or their names.  I giggled and blamed my semi-photographic memory for people, places, and conversations. 

I discovered that many of the FinCon attendees are introverts.  It makes sense that money nerds, bloggers, freelance writers, podcasters, and YouTubers… might find it overwhelming to be “ON” for 4 days straight.  Honestly, by the end of each day, I was struggling. Not because I didn’t like meeting people or the people were hard to talk to, just because of the energy level required to be in multiple conversations and learning for 4 days.

So here’s how to survive an intensive networking conference, event, or party and come out with a new winning network of awesome people. 

Follow Your Destiny to New Friends and Business Partnerships

Hopefully, you’ve read the book The Alchemist.  If not, go purchase a copy immediately- this is a must own book in every personal library.  The Alchemist will teach you a lot about why networking is essential to growing your brand and successfully building your network.  Even though it is not a business book at all.

If you consider how you made it to the conference in the first place, you’ll begin to understand that networking one avenue to get you what you need to pursue your dreams.  The act of networking is simply gathering an audience for your message, business, or other needs. The entire universe conspired to lead you to that particular conference, with that particular set of people, and information shared in a voice that only you can provide.

In my case, destiny led me to, FinCon.  I heard about it from other bloggers and thought the ticket was an expense I couldn’t afford.  I almost didn’t attend, however, it was nearby and something told me I had to get there. With all the energy at FinCon, I definitely believe that the universe brought me to the conference to meet the right people, with the right skills, and the right network to be successful in my future. 

Networking is part of the journey. Collecting like-minded folks for your “tribe”.  Figuring out who’s message is congruent with yours. Asking them to be part of your crew or following up with them after the conference.  All of these things are part of your journey. The path you must take to build your empire. Each step is an important action towards your future.

It’s vital that you consider building your network as important as building your website, business, or new product. No matter how difficult it is, get out there and network armed with several of my top networking strategies. 

“Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life.”

Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist

Networking Tips to Build Your Network and Succeed at Your Dreams

Every person you meet has a purpose in your life

When you see someone and happen to notice them for some reason, don’t walk or look away. Instead lock eyes with them, smile, and introduce yourself. Lean-in to the interaction, they likely have information that you need to hear or you have information that they need to hear.

Don’t Forget to Bring Business Cards

Make sure your business cards stand out in the pile. You can put your picture on them so people remember who you are or give helpful tips so the person associates you with your business model. I include 9 tangible wellness tips on the back of my card so anyone I meet can focus on their wellness the moment we meet. They begin to associate Wendie with Wellness.

Put Yourself Out There, Repeat, Repeat Again

Don’t be afraid to be the first one at the table to say hello and share your business cards. 9 out of 10 times, the person will thank you for taking the first step to break the ice. If you have a genuine compliment to give, start the conversation by telling the person what caught your eye about them. I met The Investing Tutor- Dr. Hans by complimenting him on his Ghanaian shirt.

Remember the Person by the Information Exchanged

Try to associate each person with the lesson that you learned from them. Building on point #1- it is possible that the interaction wasn’t happenstance. They might have had information that will be helpful to you or you might have had information that will be helpful for them. Either way, try to remember the person by the information you exchanged with them.

 Leverage Tactile Learning

Write down some notes from your conversation on the back of their card or send them an email immediately after meeting them. An interesting and creative method of keeping in touch was deployed by my new friend Kimberly- where she took a selfie with the person and texted it to them so they would remember her and she would remember them.

Reinforce the Person, Message, and Business Link as Many Times as Possible

When you see someone you’ve already met and you recognize them, (even if you don’t remember their name), say hello again. This will cement your memory for that person’s face, name, business name, or point of view. You don’t have to strike up a deep conversation again, but taking the time to say hello will help you build a relationship with the person before you leave the conference.

Follow-up/Follow-Through is Key!

Make sure you have a plan to follow up with all the people you have met. I often take some time at the end of the day to decompress. During that time I’ll go through my business card pile and write notes or send follow-up emails. This helps me and the person keep track of any information we agreed to exchange. I also keep a running to-do list with notes on what I agreed to send to different people.

Have a Method for Sorting and Storing Your Business Card Pile

You can keep binder clips in your bag to hold the cards together from each day. You can also attach a post-it note to the front of the pile with reminders or notes for follow-up. In the days after the conference, go through your pile of cards and follow all social media accounts on your preferred platform. I typically sort and tag the cards by where I met the group of people and pull out the cards I need to follow-up with immediately.

Maintaining Your Well-Being While You Build Your Empire… One Cootie-Filled Handshake at a Time. 

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up looking for your treasure and forget to stop and meet the people you encounter along the way.  These people can help you find what you are seeking. In the case of FinCon, everyone at the conference was working on finding their treasure too.  The synergy and energy from so many motivated people was infectious.

However, as I mentioned, large conferences like FinCon can be overwhelming.  In order to survive a multi-day conference, here are a few tips for maintaining your well-being when you’re “ON” for 8+ hours of the day learning and networking, followed by mixers and social gatherings.

Know Your Limits and Stick to Them

Put a stack of business cars in your bag with a goal number of people to meet that day.  When you have given them all away, consider yourself done of the day. It is O.K. to give yourself permission to only interact with a certain number of people.  If you can only handle 20 conversations in a day, put 20 business cards in your bag with a reserve stash just in case. Once you give out the 20 cards, any further networking is gravy.  

Carry Healthy Snacks, Water, and Hand Sanitizer

This should be self explanatory and is usually only necessary at conferences where food is not provided.  Make sure you bring snacks that won’t give you bad breath, will be easy to eat, and won’t leave a mess on your hands.  Chocolate is usually a must for most people so choose your mid-afternoon chocolate fix wisely. 

Bringing your own water bottle to fill up at the event is the most environmentally friendly way to ensure you stay hydrated.  If you forget, check the vendor swag tables for free water bottles. Sometimes you can score a cool new one to cover with stickers from the conference. 

If you forget to pack hand sanitizer, don’t worry! This conference-bag essential is typically a give-away with vendors. Make sure to pick some up when you visit the swag tables. Don’t forget to use it often. No one likes cooties, and the last thing you want is to take conference-plague home to your loved ones.

Take a Nap or Go for a Walk

If you’re staying in the hotel where your conference is located and you have an hour between dinner do something healthy with your “OFF” time.  Taking a nap is a great way to rejuvinate yourself for evening mixers, dinners, or awards events. 

If naps aren’t your thing, go for a walk.  Typically, the hotel front desk will have a running route map or idea of a safe walk you can take whatever your desired distance is.  It’s always helpful to ask during check-in for the recommended walking/running route in the neighborhood around the hotel. Walking during your break can revitalize you, bring your energy level up, and help you work up an appetite for dinner. 

Check-in With Home-base

Sometimes when we traveling to intense conferences, we get so busy we forget about the people and animals we love at home.  It’s super important to check-in at whatever schedule you feel is best to keep your home-life in check. Recognize that if your partner and family are not there with you, they are thinking about you.  The best way to come home to a happy household is to make sure they know you’re thinking of them while you’re away. 

A Few Final Thoughts

So many of us are on our 9-5 hustle and forget to stay on our Wellness Grind.  While you are building your empire, chasing your dreams, and making success a reality… don’t forget to take care of yourself.  Your network will grow and people will be there to help you succeed. But first, you have to help yourself stay focused and on-task.  Always enter an intensive networking space with confidence, poise, and enthusiasm. Be open to where your destiny is taking you and you will find all the people and information you need.  

Want More Perspectives on FinCon and Networking like a pro?

Special Thanks

A special thanks to the FinCon community for welcoming a wellness blogger to this amazing club. Financial wellness is important to us all and I’m so glad to have met so many wonderful voices to add to the Wellness Grind community who know all about personal finance.