• Nonprofit Learning Lab

Tips for Networking at Conferences

Updated: Aug 1, 2019


Find yourself awkwardly trying to connect with people you don't know at conferences or networking events? Below are some of the tips that we share with our attendees at our Nonprofit Labs to make sure they are able to build relationships with their colleagues at our events.


Bring business cards: I know it isn't the 90's anymore but people will still ask you for a business card so bring them and double the number you think you need. You never know, the person you give your business card to could be your next donor, boss, colleague or life partner!


Showcase your organization in a subtle way: We hand out name tags at our events but I often notice that if you wear a branded name tag from your own nonprofit it is a great way for others to strike up a conversation or ask a question. Don't have a branded name tag? How about a canvas bag or shirt with your nonprofits branding?


Talk: Sometimes you do have to talk to people to build relationships. Tricky, I know! My strategies for talking to people that I don't know include the following:

  • Look for a conversation starter: That branded name tag comes in handy when trying to strike up a conversation so if you see someone wearing one or anything related to an organization that is an easy entry point.

  • Introduce yourself: If you are seated next to someone in a workshop or opening session, introduce yourself and ask them their name and what brought him or her here today. Most likely the person sitting next to you wants to chat otherwise they wouldn't be at the event but rather in their office.

  • Ask questions: Sometimes it is good to ask people questions because it gets them talking and everyone loves to talk about themselves and their nonprofits mission. It is practice after all for when they are talking to donors, volunteers or key stakeholders. Ask people about programs they run at their nonprofit, successes they have had in the past year or challenging donors or volunteers. You likely won't get people to stop talking once you start asking about a challenging volunteer.

Approach People: So you are at a networking event and you don't know anybody? I always think its best to approach an odd number of people - so that could be 1 person or group of 3 or 5 people because likely one of those people will start engaging in a conversation with the person that approached the group.


Have any other ideas? Share them with us in the comments section.


And join us at an upcoming Nonprofit Lab where you can test out your networking skills!


Philadelphia | September 13, 2019 | www.nonprofitlearninglab.org/philadelphia

Milwaukee | September 26, 2019 | www.nonprofitlearninglab.org/milwaukee

Los Angeles | October 2, 2019 | www.nonprofitlearninglab.org/losangeles

Oakland | October 17, 2019 | www.nonprofitlearninglab.org/oakland

Seattle | October 24, 2019 | www.nonprofitlearninglab.org/seattle

New York | November 1, 2019 | www.nonprofitlearninglab.org/newyork

Baltimore | November 8, 2019 | www.nonprofitlearninglab.org/baltimore

Sacramento | February 6, 2020 | www.nonprofitlearninglab.org/sacramento

Newport News, VA | March 4, 2020 | www.nonprofitlearninglab.org/virginia

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