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Top 10 Tips for Networking at Your Next Conference

By Steve Smith

The information presented here is true and accurate as of the date of publication. DeVry’s programmatic offerings and their accreditations are subject to change. Please refer to the current academic catalog for details.

October 26, 2023

5 min read

While knowing how to network at a conference might come more naturally to some, many may feel apprehensive about jumping back into face-to-face interactions in a large conference setting, especially if they’ve been working exclusively from home for a while.


In-person events, from large annual industry conferences to quarterly meetings of professional groups, have long been useful places to make new connections, expand professional networks, cultivate new client relationships or seek out opportunities to make a career change.


In this article, we’ll offer our list of the top 10 tips for networking at conferences in-person with confidence.

1. Plan Ahead

First on our list of conference networking tips is to plan ahead. Consider what you want to achieve beforehand. Are you going to look for a new job? Determine which kinds of companies you’d like to work for and the job you want to hold and plan accordingly. If you’re looking to make new connections to land new customers or clients, build a prospect list with the names of the key personnel from companies you’re targeting.

When determining how to network at an event, even simple goals like meeting people from a new company or introducing yourself to a certain number of people can be effective.

Whether the conference is exclusively live and in person or has some online components, familiarize yourself with the sessions and speakers beforehand. This will make it easier for you to develop strategies to meet contacts from the companies you’re interested in or make other meaningful connections.

2. Dress the Part

Another tip for networking at conferences is figuring out what to wear. Remember that a sharp outfit that fits well and makes you feel good will boost your confidence. Some industries are more casual than others, but business casual will typically be the standard dress code. Exhibitors and presenters may dress up a bit more.

3. Think About Conversation Starters

A conference is a great place to make inroads or contacts with others in your field. That’s why the next few tips deal with how to spark and navigate conversations when networking at conferences.

It might be a good idea to prepare a list of conference conversation starters. Engaging with new people is easier when you have a topic that you can both relate to, so choose conversation starters that you can both contribute to:

  • What’s the most interesting idea you’ve heard today? 

  • Did you enjoy the keynote speaker? 

  • Have you been to this conference before? 

  • Have you ever seen such a (fill in the blank with something remarkable about a session you’ve both attended)?

Following your introduction, the other person just might ask what you do for a living. Here’s where you’ll need to have your elevator pitch ready.


An elevator pitch is a brief, well-rehearsed statement about who you are and what you do, and both could be beneficial to the person you’ve just met. A good elevator pitch is no more than 90 seconds long and has 3 key elements: an introduction, a value proposition and a call to action.


Keep your conversation short and sweet when networking at conferences, taking the time to listen actively to the other person and what they do, as this is the basis for meaningful engagement.

4. Have an Exit Strategy

In order to make the most out of your time there, you’re going to want to be able to talk to as many people as you have on your list. Should a conversation go on a bit longer than you expected, it’s a good idea to have a few exit lines at the ready, allowing you to end the conversation quickly but politely. Delivered with a smile, closing lines like these can really save the day:

  • “It was nice meeting/talking to you. Enjoy the rest of the conference.”

  • “Let’s get coffee next week.”

  • “Please excuse me. I have to check in with my partner.”

  • “Do you have a business card?”

5. Be Personable

Another important tip to remember in planning how to network at an event is that while you’re hoping to connect with people, being as personable as possible might go a long way with other conference attendees who are planning to approach you as well. Put the phone and tablet away, check your email later and use positive body language and eye contact when engaging with your fellow attendees.

Being honest and open about your conference goals is also a good policy. The next person you meet just might be able to help you achieve your goals by making an introduction or offering advice. 

6. Take Note of Names and Faces

Conference name tags identify people and their companies. You could meet dozens of people throughout the course of a busy conference day, and remembering all those names and faces can be challenging. Repeating their names during your brief conversations can help you remember them. Taking notes after the encounter can help you remember their unique attributes and provide thoughts for effective follow-up correspondence. 

7. Make the Most of Social Media

Social media can help you be a part of the conversation before, during and after the conference. There is often a flurry of activity on social media channels like X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn before the meeting to drive attendance and promote the sessions and speakers. This presents an opportunity for you to get your name out there as a participant in the conversation and a planned attendee. During the event, you will likely have the opportunity to follow the action, weigh in on events and connect with other attendees. After the conference, use social media to follow up and form connections with the people you’ve met.

8. Don’t Forget Your Business Cards

The easiest way to share your contact information with someone is often the tried-and-true business card. Be sure to take enough business cards to the event so you don’t run out and remember to ask your new connections for theirs as well. Writing a personal note on the back of your card is a good way to help them remember you.

Digital business cards are emerging as a new networking tool. While they don’t have the tactical quality of a traditional printed card, they can be edited at any time and contain more information than a paper card. 

9. Create Mutually Beneficial Relationships

As in our personal relationships, professional relationships are a two-way street. Rather than exclusively pitching yourself and your firm or services, consider offering help to other attendees. This could be as simple as offering to introduce them to contacts of yours or helping them with complex projects or initiatives you’re aware of. By helping them to meet their goals, you could cultivate beneficial, long-term relationships.

10. Avoid Burnout

While you’re going to want to make the most of your time at the conference, all the connecting, networking, elevator pitching and conversing can leave you a bit exhausted. Avoid burnout by getting enough rest, taking short breaks to gather your thoughts and staying hydrated. 

DeVry Career Services Can Help Our Graduates at Any Stage of Their Career

We understand the importance of networking. Our Career Services team offers DeVry students and graduates a range of virtual events that can help move your job search forward and allow you to network with peers, industry leaders and hiring managers.

Online career direction is available anytime by logging in to HireDeVry 2.0, a self-guided platform that features career resources aligned with DeVry’s areas of study, internships and job leads from our employer partners and information about upcoming events like virtual career fairs and job search webinars.

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