The number on reason people attend a business conference is for "networking opportunities". They answer this on survey forms across industry lines. Everyone hopes to make those connections at events that can and will impact their careers.
All opportunities come from people, and it is through creating real, meaningful and mutually beneficial connections with others that we can find more success.
However, once they arrive at the meeting they do not take the steps necessary to really meet and understand the other people. Instead they hang out with friends and co-workers and then spend all the breaks and free time on their cell phones.
I speak at conventions and kick off the conference with my "Conference Networking Catalyst" program. I am the first speaker and set the tone for taking attendees beyond cocktail party chit-chat and create powerful networking opportunities. I then participate throughout the mulit-day event to ensure that people connect and follow up when they get home.
This "meeting planners favorite" program helps engage everyone to break out of their comfort zone. When people make lasting connections at a conference, they are more likely to come back the next year.
When you attend a conference, if there is no official "catalyst", you can assume that role. You do not need to speak from the stage to encourage people to network. Lead by example. Talk to people. Smile. Ask questions.
Most important is what you do when you get home. Meeting people is just meeting. It is not networking. It is not cultivating long-term relationships. You must own the follow up if you want to really have connections that can become powerful influences on your career.
Have A Great Day.