How to Network at a Convention
This weekend I’ll be speaking at San Diego Comic-Con on a panel called “Her Universe: Geek Girl Fashion – A Discussion Between Fashion Professionals and Fans.” While I’m excited to explore the convention when I’m not on the panel, I’m also looking forward to connecting with fellow professionals and fans. Conventions, like conferences, can be a great networking opportunity. The size of these events can make the idea of talking to people daunting at first but don’t let that deter you! You could miss out on a great opportunity to form some career connections. Here are a couple things to keep in mind if you’re a Career Girl navigating the convention scene.
- Bring business cards. When someone asks for your card you don’t want to have to come up with an excuse for why you don’t have one! Make sure you have a good number of business cards on you when attending a convention. You can get some good quality cards that are inexpensive online or even print your own at home. Keep them handy so you don’t have to go digging to find them and don’t be too forward when offering your card to people. Make sure it’s a natural progression in your conversation and that the other person is genuinely interested in having your information.
- Be open to small talk. Even if you don’t like initiating small talk, at these crowded events you often don’t have to. Whether you’re waiting in line for a panel or sitting in a room waiting for one to start, the people around you may try to strike up a conversation. Don’t be afraid to chat with them and see where it goes. The person next to you could become a friend or be a great professional connection! When I attended a panel on my own at New York Comic-Con last year, I had a very informative conversation with a fellow blogger about covering pop culture for online outlets. You never know who may be sitting next to you! That guy dressed like Boba Fett could be an accountant at a firm that you always wanted a connection with. You may even give him one of those business cards you remembered to bring!
- Don’t be afraid to approach panelists. The style of each convention will be different, but sometimes panelists hang around once their presentation is over. If they do they will often chat with people in the audience who have additional questions. If someone on the panel is in a career you’re interested in or would make a helpful connection somewhere down the road, take advantage of the extra time they’re around and introduce yourself. Or if the panelist you wanted to speak with leaves the room quickly, make sure you save their name and see if you can find a way to reach out to them after the convention. For example, if you find an email address on their website, reach out to them and let them know you saw them speak on the panel and found it very interesting. Then move into what you would have spoken with them about if you had the chance to speak with them in person.
- Visit booths & tables. Conventions can be very crowded and sometimes it’s hard to stop and talk to the people behind a booth or artist table. If you don’t though, you’ll be missing out on a great opportunity. Take advantage of having them there one-on-one and make the effort to visit and start a conversation. Sometimes you can learn more through these discussions than through sitting in the audience at a panel.
With these tips in mind, I hope you’ll stop by and say hi to me at my panel Saturday night! We’ll be in room 24ABC from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. Don’t be shy!