At every conference, trade show and exhibition, you will spend a surprisingly large amount of time networking. This is part of what these events are set up for, after all. They are great opportunities to get to know people in your industry and make valuable contacts that could improve your business and make your job a lot easier!

However, for every useful contact you find to network with, there could be five people who are unfortunately a waste of your time. It sounds impolite, but ultimately if you spend your time talking to someone who is not going to be a useful contact in the future then you may have missed an opportunity to forge a meaningful connection with someone else.

But how can you make sure that you only network with the right people? There are a few things you can do that will help you out in this regard, ensuring that your time is spent effectively.

Prepare in advance

You should be getting ready for a conference a good week or so before it actually begins. During this preparatory time, it is a good idea to research who is going to the event and whether or not they are worth networking with. Many key industry figures will have personal blogs and other websites that you can check to see if they will be in the same place as you.

This gives you a clear idea of who to target when you next get a chance to do a bit of networking. Just be careful not to get distracted; the most useful contacts will probably be in high demand, so you might not get a chance to talk to them if you aren't careful.

Give yourself extra time

For many people, an event ends at the normal time. However, many attendees will be staying at a nearby hotel and the networking will keep going afterwards in the bar or restaurant. As such, it is a good idea not to miss out on this.

Make sure you stay in the same hotel as the majority of the other attendees. This way, you will have effectively gained a full evening of extra time in which to network. Even if you are within driving distance of home, it is always better to get a bit more networking in while you have the chance.

Know what to say

You don't want to waste your time with idle chit-chat when it is so limited. You need to prepare beforehand so you know exactly what to say to each person in order to forge meaningful connections quickly.

However, you are conversing with these people, not presenting to them. You shouldn't arrive with a prepared speech that you regurgitate to everyone you meet. Instead, have a good idea of how you want your conversations to go and try to steer them in the right direction, while letting them flow naturally.