How to Successfully Network at Summer Trade Shows

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Networking is an invaluable skill, especially in the tax preparation industry where connections can open doors to new skill and growth opportunities. As you gear up for this summer’s key tax industry events—Latino Tax Fest, IRS Nationwide Tax Forum, and NATP Taxposium—here’s a seven tips to help you network successfully and make the most out of these gatherings.

1. Set Clear Goals

The first step to successful networking is to set clear, achievable goals. Are you looking to expand your business offering? Seeking a new tax software? Or maybe you’re in search of business advice and education? Defining what you aim to achieve will guide your interactions and help you stay focused. For instance, if your goal is to expand your business offering, your strategy might involve connecting with your bank’s account team and finding the right program for your business. If collaboration is your aim, you might focus on joining an industry organization or continuing your education and becoming an Enrolled Agent.

2. Research Attendees

Knowledge is power. Before you step foot in the event, do your homework. All of these trade shows publish lists of seminar topics, exhibitors, and speakers beforehand. Use this information to identify key individuals or organizations you’d like to connect with. Learn about their backgrounds, interests, and recent accomplishments. This research will not only help you identify who to approach, but also arm you with conversation starters that show you’ve taken a genuine interest in them and their business.

3. Prepare Your Elevator Pitch

An effective elevator pitch is concise, compelling, and memorable. Your pitch should introduce who you are, what you do (i.g.the products you offer and market you serve), and what you need help with—all in about 30 seconds. Practice delivering your pitch in front of a mirror until it feels natural and confident. For example, you might say, “Hi, I’m Jane Doe, a certified tax preparer specialized in small business tax solutions. I’m here to explore cost-saving bank products and earn continuing education credits.”

4. Initiate Conversations

Approaching a stranger can be daunting, but remember, everyone is there to network. Start with a confident introduction followed by a remark that finds common ground. You might comment on the event’s sessions, or simply ask about their trade show experience so far. The key is to be earnestly interested in learning about the other attendees—this will make your interactions more genuine and memorable.

5. Exchange Information

When you’ve established a connection, don’t forget to exchange business cards or contact information. This is crucial for staying in touch after the event. Make a habit of jotting down a few notes on the back of the business cards you receive to remind yourself of specific details about your conversation. This will come in handy when you follow up later.

6. Be Strategic

Time is limited, so prioritize conversations with individuals who align with your goals. If you find yourself in a conversation that isn’t yielding productive outcomes, it’s perfectly acceptable to gracefully exit. You might say, “It’s been great chatting with you. I’m going to mingle a bit more, but let’s catch up later if we have time.”

7. Follow Up

Your work doesn’t end when the event does. Following up is essential to nurturing the connections you’ve made. Send personalized follow-up emails or LinkedIn messages within a few days of the event. Reference your conversation to jog their memory and express your interest in staying in touch or collaborating further. A well-timed follow-up can turn a brief interaction into a lasting professional relationship.

By setting clear goals, doing your research, preparing your pitch, and following through, you’ll transform your networking efforts at Latino Tax Fest, IRS Nationwide Tax Forum, and NATP Taxposium into successful, rewarding experiences.

Happy networking!