How to Network at a Conference: 10 Networking Tips to Leave a Conference with More Than Just Swag

👉 Register to attend the 2024 CommerceNext Growth Show on June 11-13 in NYC to learn from 150+ industry leaders about ecommerce and retail growth.


Dive into 10 steps you can take to help expand your network at the next conference you attend! From tips on crafting conversations in person to a guide on how to follow-up after the conference, follow these networking tips to make the most of your conference experience.

A great set of networking skills can help transform a good conference experience into a long-lasting and impactful experience. Here are 10 tips you can put into practice to help expand your network at conferences. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Have a clear plan with defined goals before the conference.
  • Utilize social media to establish connections and engage with attendees.
  • Take advantage of all networking opportunities available before, during and after the conference.
  • Focus on building mutually beneficial relationships and remember to follow up

1. Plan Ahead for Success

Before anything else, you should determine what goals you want to achieve while networking at the conference. Are you looking for a mentor? Or are you looking for a new position? With this in mind, you can envision what kind of activities and networking conversations you will have at the conference. 

Additionally, it is important to have a daily agenda for each day of the conference. Whether it is digital or on paper, write out your schedule for each day. While doing this, plan your schedule with networking opportunities in mind. Include each panel, event, chat, workshop and breakout session that you are attending. This will help you see all the opportunities and times you have to network while at and in between events. 

Next, do your research. Check the conference website to research the attendees you would like to include in your potential network. Many conferences, like the 2024 CommerceNext Growth Show, have a section on their website with people or companies attending. After researching attendees, read their latest work, social posts, and any news on their organization to prepare for conversations.

2. Use Social Media

Use social media to plan ahead. Check online conversations surrounding the conference on X (Twitter), LinkedIn and Instagram. Post about the conference and engage in discussions online using conference hashtags and social media groups. This can help increase the likelihood of others starting a conversation with you at the conference. Additionally, many conferences have their own apps that can be used beforehand to see the network you can potentially engage with. 

The #CN2024 hashtag on LinkedIn features content about updates on their conference

The 2024 CommerceNext Growth Show utilizes the hashtag “#CN2024” to share updates and host conversations for conference attendees. 

Social media is not just helpful before the conference; it should be utilized throughout the conference—before, during, and after. Use it during the conference to engage in conversations, share your thoughts, and keep up with any conference updates. It should also be used after the conference to follow up with any connections and to expand your network even further. 

3. Make a Good Impression

Make sure you look and act the part. 

  • Dress professionally.
  • Be present and avoid being on your phone. People are more likely to approach you with conversation when you are engaged in the conference and its content.
  • Use your badge and others’ badges to your advantage. Use the information on their badge to start a conversation. Make sure yours is on display so any potential connection can see your information.
  • Be sure to have business cards prepared for any potential connections, and be ready to receive some in return.


2 attendees wearing badges at the CommerceNext conference shake hands

Wear your badge and utilize the information on other people’s badges to find mutual interests and connect with your new network!

4. Seize Every Opportunity

Make sure you take every opportunity available to expand your network. Attend all conference events and sessions. You can also get on the guest list for conference social events where you can meet more people in a social setting. It would also be helpful to stay at the same hotel as the conference. This way, you have as many opportunities as possible to form your connections. Don’t forget to take advantage of conference breaks—getting lunch or grabbing coffee with a new connection is a great way to create a new professional relationship.

Remember that you can form helpful connections with anyone at the conference. Try talking to vendors: it’s a great way to practice conversations and vendors enjoy talking to attendees. Remember, do not only be a “fan”—you can approach people outside of keynote speakers and VIPs. Find a common interest with anyone, and you’ll be on your way to a great connection.

Be aware of different venues for the conference and don’t disregard a virtual venue. Starting conversations in virtual sessions is a great way to stand out. Being as involved as you can within the conference allows you to meet as many new connections as possible while talking to a diverse range of people.

5. Break the Ice

Networking can be daunting when we don’t know what to say. The buddy system can be helpful if you are new to networking. Network with a friend and engage in conversations together. Once you are more comfortable, don’t be afraid to branch out and go solo to form more personal relationships with your new network.

Here are some great ways to plan your conversation starters: 

  • Discuss the conference, speakers or any events that would interest attendees. 
  • Share an interesting anecdote from the conference.
  • Start conversations that would be of mutual interest to you and your potential connection.
  • Ask people where they are based—maybe they live in your favorite city or somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit.


6. Keep Conversations Flowing

Now that you’re ready to start networking, you can dive right into forming those connections through your conversations. After your conversation starter, have your elevator pitch ready. Keep it short and sweet, but be personable. It’s good practice to adjust your elevator pitch with information suitable to each person you talk to. 

In addition, frame the conversation around what the other person is interested in. You can do this by asking leading questions that allow you to listen to insights from the other person. 

Here are some examples of leading questions:

  • Can you tell me more about your role at your company? I’m interested in learning more about your role and what you do.
  • What do you find most challenging about our industry right now?
  • I noticed you attended (a specific event or session). What were your favorite takeaways from that?
  • What projects are you currently working on that you’re passionate about?

Though it is essential to keep the conversation moving, you should also know when to exit a conversation. While wrapping up a conversation, end on a positive note and leave a lasting impression. Share your contact information or receive contact information from them and plan to follow up.

7. Take Notes

While networking, it is vital to maintain and keep track of all the connections you are forming. Keep a business card bank of all the contacts you receive, write notes about the conversations you had with this contact and then follow up with them after the conference.

During sessions, write down the names of speakers that interest you, take notes during the panel or event and then use these notes to follow up and potentially form a relationship with them in person or online. 

8. Form Mutually Beneficial Relationships

Keep in mind that networking not only helps you, but it helps your new connection too. Avoid dominating conversations. Self-promotion is a part of networking, but remember you can also offer something valuable. Do this by asking questions, learning about the new person and finding an interest shared by both of you.

Remember, you can leverage old connections while making new connections. Use your network to network. Find any mutual connections and introduce people across networks to form an even more meaningful and connected network.

9. Avoid Burnout

Networking at conferences offers excellent opportunities, but remember not to put too much pressure on yourself. Know your limits and prioritize self-care during the conference. It’s okay to take breaks and spend time with the people you know or even by yourself.

Don’t beat yourself up for any mistakes you make during conference conversations. It is okay if you don’t know the answer to a question. Instead, ask for the business card or contact information and get back to them after the conference. If anything, sometimes, these mistakes make for great stories and learning experiences for the future. 

10. Follow-Up for Continued Networking

Networking doesn’t end when the conference ends. Use the notes that you took throughout the conference to follow up and connect with anyone who stood out. At the very minimum, connect with the individuals on LinkedIn so you can keep them in your network and see what they are up to professionally. Use other social media platforms or email to reach out and continue expanding your network.

Here’s a sample message you can send to a new connection:

Hi (name), it was great meeting you at the CommerceNext Growth Show and talking about new innovations in AI. Looking forward to staying connected!


Ready to sharpen your networking skills? Register now for the 2024 CommerceNext Growth Show and put these tips into practice! 

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