Heading to a product event or conference? In this blog post, you’ll find some easy ways to network with every product person who crosses your path – in-person or online.
Expanding your professional (and personal network) helps you to broaden your thinking, share knowledge, discover new ideas, understand market opportunities, get inspiration, and simply to meet like-minded product people. In his bestselling book on the power of relationships, Never Eat Alone, Keith Farazzi highlights the importance of a professional network and how building relationships that will last a lifetime is vital.
But first, you need to make the connections to build on.
For some, this comes naturally but for others, it’s more like pulling teeth. So what are the best ways to maximise every networking opportunity?
Networking Events for Product People
Relevant events provide the perfect setting for in-person networking. Take a conference like #mtpcon Digital. With over 1,000 product people all in one digital space – just one click away – it’s a great opportunity to meet new people. And you don’t even have to wait until the day to connect with other attendees. Connect with other attendees on Twitter by following our hashtag #mtpcon, or via our handle @mindtheproduct.
In addition, you’ll find more than 40,000 members when you join Mind the Product on Slack. To meet other conference attendees once you’re there, head to the #mtpcon channel.
Connecting in advance of an event like this is more useful than you might think. You can research who’ll be in attendance, and plan who it is you’d like to speak with, instead of taking a random outreach approach. Essentially, you’ve got your hands on the guestlist before you’ve walked in the door.
Have a Networking Gameplan
It pays to be clear about what it is you want to achieve on the day of your conference or event, Do you simply want to make more product contacts? To develop connections within a particular company or industry? Or to find someone who can help you with a challenge you’re currently facing?
Knowing the answers to these questions – and having found out who’s going to be there – will help you to design your hitlist and make initial introductions so much easier. You can have conversation starters at the ready! Not entirely sure about the specifics of their role or company? Ask them. Start by acknowledging the company they work for, and cover the basics such as:
- What product do you work with?
- What’s the product’s most popular feature?
- Who are the users?
- What are your biggest challenges?
- Who’s your competition?
All you need is one nugget of information to break the ice and get the ball rolling. After that, the more you know, the more it also tells your new contact about you. You’re organised, focused, and you’ve done your homework.
Helping You To Make New Connections
At #mtpcons, we do our best to give your networking a helpful nudge. At the venues of our in-person events, you’ll find icebreaker cards to fuel your conversations, pin badges to speak for you (choose from a fun selection that will help to kick-start your chats), and speed networking zones. Like speed dating (and potentially just as fun) speed networking gives you a chance to exchange information with others at pace.
At our digital conferences, our platform features make networking so easy. Say hi in the open chat window, or open a private message with someone you’d like to speak with. We’ve got digital speed networking zones too! All you need to do is show up and you’ll be matched with another attendee at random.
Wherever you’re going, go prepared to make the most of the opportunities you’re presented with. Have your details at the ready, be set to share your background and goals, and have a selection of questions you’d love the answers to, lined up.
Prepare To Network for Success
Of course, it can take a little time to warm up to the idea of networking in a crowded room (real or virtual) of people you’ve never met, but try to avoid sticking to the people you already know, especially at the start of the day. If you’re not quite ready to go in full force, you can target an audience that’s guaranteed to be receptive, such as:
Meet the Mind the Product Team
Our core team and volunteers are product people and even though we’re working at our conferences, we want to network too. We’re a friendly bunch, so feel free to use us as your warm-up gig.
- At in-person events: Look for the crew cyan t-shirts (we’re hard to miss)
- At our digital events: Search for us by simply typing our names. Unsure who we are? Browse our team page
Speak to Sponsors and Exhibitors
Our event sponsors and exhibitors are there because they want to talk to people, like you, about Product so be sure to go and talk to them. Not only will they have interesting things to tell you about what they do – they’ll be interested in your stories too.
- At in-person events: Visit the stands
- At our digital events: Visit the Expo
The Challenge of Networking
If you’re already a networking pro, the idea won’t cause you to break a sweat but that’s not the case for everyone. Taking to a stranger in person or online can be daunting. But keep in mind that, if you’re at an event like #mtpcon, then most people are there to network, just like you. Once you’ve said the initial hello, that’s the hard work done!
Many events, like #mtpcon, offer an afterparty for attendees and these provide the perfect setting to continue conversations in a relaxed setting. If you’re going to be focused on the conference content during the day and want to save your chit-chat for the party, that’s fine too – whatever works for you!
At #mtpcon Digital our online social sessions kick off the day and help to bring them to a close too. Think, social coffee morning sessions, pub quizzes, cooking challenges, relaxed chat rooms, yoga classes, and more!
More Networking Inspiration
Kenneth Chin, the Chief Product Officer for Seek Asia, has described himself as the most extroverted introvert you’ll ever meet. He’s trained himself to be that way when the need arises. In his talk Leading Product Teams in Asia, at #mtpcon Singapore 2019, he talks about this and offers advice for becoming more confident.
More great networking advice:
- 15 Tips on Networking During a Virtual Event
- How to Network at Conferences Without Being Awkward
- 17 Tips for Surviving Your Next Networking Event
- The Ultimate Networking Guide for Introverts