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It’s conference season and I’m gearing up for the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) World Conference. I’ve had the great pleasure of speaking at this conference multiple times and I always enjoy seeing people I’ve only met over the phone, listening to great presentations and celebrating with fellow communications pros.

So often, when going to a conference, we leave our networking to chance encounters. But what would happen if you were more deliberate in your approach? The reality is, creating valuable career connections takes a bit of effort. If we only network when we need something, we miss out on the long-term benefit of having great people to call on for advice. Mentorship and sharing of ideas is essential to a fulfilling career.

If you’re going to the IABC World Conference, think about how you can make meaningful connections before, during and after the event.

Before the conference: If you haven’t already, download the conference app and create your profile. Within the app you can learn about the speakers, plan which sessions you want to attend (of course, including “Creating Your Career Vision” on Monday at 4 p.m.), and you can see who else will be at there. If there is someone you’ve been wanting to meet – reach out before you arrive and let them know you’d like to find time to connect.

During the conference: Exhibit booths are not just for picking up swag. Learn about the great tools and resources for communications pros. More importantly, those spaces are designed to mix and mingle (and often get a great snack). Walk up to people and say hello. You already know you’ve got something in common just by being there. Swap cards – but then follow up later with a LinkedIn connection and a personal note. This could be the beginning a great professional friendship.

After the conference: I know, it’s tough to stay in contact with people because once back at your desk, you are busy. But statistics show that throughout the course of one’s career, the No. 1 way people get jobs is through personal connections. I see this play out every day in my role as a recruiter. People who know you, know your work and like you, will be the most likely way you hear about amazing career opportunities. Nurturing your network means staying in touch when you don’t need anything. Drop a periodic note, say congratulations when you see that job move, do an actual phone call and share ideas, and if in the same city – maybe grab coffee or lunch periodically. Taking just a little time each month to do this will be a game changer.

Will you be at the IABC World Conference? If you want to connect while there, drop me a note. I’d love to meet you! Watch for my “cocktail office hours” post coming soon.