28 July 2015

Top 5 tips for NFP networking

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One of the most fulfilling elements of running an event is being able to witness new connections being made. In an age where online content is king and any article, webinar, blog, email address or LinkedIn contact is only a click away, the opportunity for face-to-face connection is more valuable than ever.

Across ever sector we work with at Akolade there is a certain buzz in the room when the first networking breaks begin, as the first cups of coffee are poured you can almost hear the ice breaking between delegates.  

The NFP sector in particular have a huge appetite for networking, with reforms such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP), as well as the Senate inquiry’s such as on community service tendering processes. The NFP sector is undergoing significant change and need an outlet to share their experiences with peers.  As an industry, the NFP sector is consumed by providing quality services to the community, often operating on shoestring and under strict regulation. The opportunity to meet with like-minded NFP professionals and share wins, or even vent frustrations, is immeasurable.

Here are 5 tips on how to get the most out of networking at your next conference.

1.       Come prepared

Basics first, it’s important to always have your business cards at a conference, it’s much easier to collect business cards when you’re also handing them out. When preparing for a conference it’s useful to take a few moment to outline a few key objectives when entering a networking opportunity, what do you want to get out of the event? While you are sure to learn a lot from the presenters there could also be a specific issue you’d like advice on, ask yourself; what do I want to return to the office with some clarity on?

2.       Get out of your comfort zone

If you’re attending an event with a colleague it’s all too easy to spend the whole conference sitting, eating and ‘networking’ with the person you sit with every day in the office. This also applies if you’re attending alone, switch seats every day of the conference to meet new groups, or perhaps try eating lunch with someone new. 

3.       Connect with key speakers early

Think of the most inspirational speaker you’ve ever witnessed at a conference, I am sure in each scenario after their presentation the same thing has happened; they’ve been surrounded afterwards. This is inevitable, great speakers attract congratulations and plenty of questions. If there is a particular speaker you're interested in connecting with, it may be worthwhile to reach out to them before the conference thus creating a connection early and ensuring you’re at the top of their list to meet at the event.

4.       Get involved

At Akolade we aim for a minimum of 4 interactive sessions per conference, these are opportunities for delegates to ask the speakers as well as other attendees questions in a less formal structure. Getting involved in these interactive sessions is a great way to promote the great work your NFP is doing, or to bring the challenge you’re facing to the forefront.

5.       Keep the conversation going

Maintaining the connections you make at conference when you are back in the office can be challenging when the reality of a full inbox hits. Luckily technology is there to help, however the value of face-to-face connection can’t be overstated, make a time in your diary to meet with your new contact again.  

Having unfulfilled her childhood dream of becoming an international spy, Ellise is loving her position as Conference Production Manager at Akolade. Her favourite thing about the role is that it allows her to stay abreast of the latest news across a variety of industries while constantly learning from experts in their field.

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