If you were to ask an IT expert about networking, they might ask what's your IP address? Jokes aside, working in tech often means interacting with people behind a computer screen, which makes in-real-life meetings that much more special. As the WordPress Community Manager at SiteGround, it's my job to attend events around that world and to take some of that online connectivity and apply it to offline community building.
Even though I have a ton of fun, there’s a business side to attending events too. I highly recommend individuals and businesses take the time to attend conferences, meetups, and hackathons so they can meet new people and create opportunities for spontaneous conversation. The web is a powerful tool, but there's nothing like connecting in person, and there are plenty of reasons to make it a priority.
Develop new opportunities through thoughtful networking
Relationship and community building doesn't happen by itself. It takes planning, investment, and you guessed it: networking. Whether you're a blogger, a freelance developer, run an agency, or own your business, there's value in going to events and meeting people in real life. We've seen for ourselves how powerful those human interactions can be, and we’ve started many successful business partnerships this way.
Tip #1: Come prepared
You don't have to be naturally outgoing and charismatic to be great at networking. You can learn and develop these skills! Begin with research to have a good idea of who is attending the event and who you would like to meet. Many conferences will publish a list of attendees or develop an app to make networking easier. You can also use the official hashtag on Twitter to ask people who’s going. Mention you are attending in your Twitter profile to let people know in case they want to connect with you. Then, set up meetings or casually introduce yourself if the opportunity arises. Don't be shy! Chat with the people around you too. You could be sitting beside your next business partner and not even know it.
Tip #2: Don’t be shy
Small talk is the easiest way to start chatting with someone. You can even strike up a conversation while waiting in the lunch queue. Introduce yourself, ask them their name, and follow up with an icebreaker question. “Is this your first time at this conference?” or “What talks did you attend?” are great ways to keep the conversation going. Listen, react, and be genuine. Then, use “What do you do for a living” as a natural way to move the topic to business.
Tip #3: Get their contact information
Never walk away without taking someone's contact information. This could be as simple as getting the person's name in writing so you can add them on LinkedIn or follow them on Twitter. If you can get an email address, that's even better. Be sure to follow up with them shortly after the event so you can keep the conversation going. Whatever you do, don't be overly salesy. Networking shouldn't be approached only as a means to an end. People can see right through it if you merely treat them as potential profit. Being genuine and kind goes a long way.
Meet the people you interact with already
Hosting can be a confusing concept for people building their first website. They often don't realize there are real humans behind the data centers and servers powering their sites. Similarly, attending events in person allows you to put a face to the technology you use every day and to meet the creators developing the software and solutions you love.
Just like meeting a musician you have on repeat at home, meeting someone who makes a product you use can be great! It’s also an opportunity to discuss feedback you might have to make the product better for everyone. In fact, that's a lot like how the WordPress community works. We get together to discuss improvements, new features, and set new standards, to make WordPress and the web safer, faster, and more powerful.
At SiteGround, the conversations we have at events like WordCamps, meetups, and more, are an essential part of serving our clients, listening to them, and getting inspired by all the ways they use our tools and services to power their projects.
At the end of the day, being with people is fun! Technology has given us the means to meet people from around the world that we otherwise couldn't and to build communities beyond the restrictions of geography, language, and ability. Meeting in person is a great way to build on that, and we hope to see you at an event soon!
Follow us on Twitter to find out where we'll be next.