A major incentive of attending any convention or conference is the chance to meet face-to-face with other people in your industry. So how do you take full advantage of that direct, personal interaction and develop it into a long lasting relationship? From planning out your day ahead of time to fostering digital relationships during and after the event – here are five tips on how to maximize networking & conversation at conventions.

1. Plan Ahead: Most conventions & conferences send through a digital calendar of hour-by-hour event schedules. We recommend arriving with a game plan – check out the schedule ahead of time, and map out the speakers and demonstrations you want to attend. This is key to making sure you’re maximizing your time and getting to all of the events you want to attend. Don’t forget to have a plan B when some of your desired events overlap. To keep things organized, many conventions and conferences are offering apps to help create a seamless experience. For example, in 2013 Social Media Week offered an app that allowed you to make your own schedule (which included reminders), connect with other attendees, and even offered streams of presentations that were at capacity. It’s a great way to stay organized, plan ahead, and get connected.

Kevin Mitnick’s business card can pick locks.

2. Work in Some Down Time: Add some buffer time into your game plan. This is a great time to walk around and meet other conference-goers or to chat with speakers and brand sponsors. Adding this networking time into your schedule will make your experience more beneficial and a lot less hectic. Don’t forget to bring plenty of business cards for times like this – you’ll want to reconnect with these people again. And don’t be afraid to put a little thought into your business card before you hand it out: Former hacker-turned-security consultant Kevin Mitnick’s famous business card transforms into a lock pick set that actually works. That’s one networking device that will never end up forgotten in a drawer.

3. Connect with the Community Digitally: Get involved in the digital conversation at the event. Follow all of your favorite speakers/brands, join the digital conversation through the event’s dedicated hashtag and work on fostering those relationships you’ve made on a digital stage. Sponsors are integrating the digital community into events more than ever, so it’s important to be part of the conversation. Events that use live Tint feeds can aggregate and focus these conversations; it’s a great way to get your personal brand noticed and create relationships with like-minded individuals. Be wise, of course: According to Wired, last year the sneaky geeks behind ReedPop’s New York Comic Con posted exuberant tweets on the Twitter feeds of many attendees who had pre-registered their RFID-enabled badges online. Events that use live Tint feeds can aggregate and focus these conversations. At TechCrunch Disrupt 2013, for instance, TechCrunch employed Tint to make a Q&A tweetwall as well as a social media vent display. It allowed attendees to ask questions and interact in real time, and coordinators found it easy to set up and use. It’s a great way to get your personal brand noticed and create relationships with like-minded individuals.

TEDx social display powered by Tint
TEDx social display powered by Tint

4. Check Out Events Outside Your Field: You’re there to learn, aren’t you? Check out a few events that are outside of your traditional realm and learn something totally new. You may even leave the session with a new, innovative way to integrate what you’ve learned back into your field.

5. Reconnect Post-Event: We all want to be remembered, don’t we? Showing a new connection you remember something you spoke about goes a long way in networking. You can reconnect either via email, phone, or social – but be sure you take the time to make thought-out notes. You never know when a new connection will come a business partner or a new client/employer. LinkedIn is the professional network, but more and more professionals are connecting on Twitter. During the event, make sure to use the dedicated hashtag to be part of the conversation, whether it be dedicated to a talk or the event in general. You’ll easily connect with other social media-savvy users who have the same interests, and connect on a common ground. Arranging post-conference events are a great way to solidify relationships as well. By inviting your new connections to a lunch or a “meeting of the minds” over a few drinks, you can get to know each other better in a more comfortable atmosphere. It doesn’t hurt to have LinkedIn on your phone, either.

It’s important to make the most of your networking events, whether they are social hours or three-day conferences. After all, you’re investing time and money into growing both personally and professionally. So we’d like to know: what are your recommendations on how to maximize networking & conversations? What are your favorite ways to interact and stay involved with the convention and its attendees?