Tools for Virtual Networking Before Arriving at an Event

September 21, 2014

Hit the ground running at your next industry event! Make contact and connections with others in your field before you arrive at the venue so that your face-to-face meetings are productive and not centered around “Who are you?” and “What do you do?” questions. New technology is popping up daily to address this very issue. Below are a few new and old, but good, ways to network prior to an event.

Event Web Site

Many events offer a web portal that requires a login and profile. This isn’t just an extra hassle put in place to annoy you.  In most cases, this collection of personal data is then used to match you with similar colleagues or those looking for your products and services. Set aside five minutes, a few weeks out from the event, to complete your profile and search the exhibitor and attendee lists. In these five minutes you may uncover a gold mine of potential business contacts that you otherwise would not have found just by roaming the expo floor. Usually, the website offers a way to securely/privately email individuals that you are interested in so that you can schedule an onsite meeting without cold calling or hassling them. 

LinkedIn

Updating your LinkedIn profile is crucial, as it is becoming more common for networking tools to connect with individuals’ LinkedIn profiles so that a new profile is not required.  Once your profile is current, look for the official event group or page on LinkedIn and join or connect with it.  Then follow and post to the discussions started by the group.  You will quickly find new connections through others who have joined the group.  Make individual connections with those posting on topics of interest or who work in your field. Offer to meet face-to-face at a session or networking event scheduled during the conference or expo.

Mobile App

Download the events mobile app which can be very useful for researching exhibitors that you want to meet and selecting the sessions that you would like to attend.  Some apps allow you to make direct contact with exhibitors to schedule onsite meetings. In addition, attendee-to-attendee networking technology is becoming more widely available in event apps.  Some apps utilize the user’s LinkedIn profile for the attendee-to-attendee networking feature.  This not only saves you time in that you do not have to create a second profile, but it also allows the connections that you make at the event to live beyond the event dates.  These connections are now also part of your LinkedIn network. You can use the app’s networking feature to see who is attending the event.  You may be attending alone and feel apprehensive or intimidated by to do so then this feature can aid in your decision to attend the event or not.  Once you decide to attend and login in to the networking feature you can use the app to search for attendees with like interests and then send emails or request to become a connection.  In addition, some mobile apps offer the ability to post directly to the event’s social media pages from the event app, allowing you to easily follow and start conversations with others at the event.

Professional Contact QRCode

This one may take you out of your comfort zone, but it will make a lasting impression.  When planning to attend a networking function, or if you will be visiting many expo booths, create a QR code that links to your company page, professional website, or LinkedIn profile.  Create stickers with the QR Code that you can place on your name badge.  When you meet someone new and want to share your contact info, ask them to scan your QR code. Your information is now saved in their mobile device rather than at the bottom of a pile of business cards. Be sure to get their info as well, so that you can follow up later.  You can always jog their memory by reminding them that they scanned your QR code.

Planely

Planely is an online tool that allows you to connect with others who are travelling in the same direction you are.  You simply enter your travel information (flight details, hotel, and reason for travel) and the tool connects you with others who may be on your flight, staying in the same hotel, or going to the same event. You can now take advantage of this untapped time in your day for meeting new people, sharing a drink or meal, or a cab to the hotel. You never know what may come out of these “chance” meetings.

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