In Pictures: 12 iPhone apps that will make you a networking star
Have some business travel planned? Get ready to put on a happy face, chat strangers up and expand your professional circle at the next conference or seminar. Here are some trusty iPhone apps to help you network.
Nothing is more embarrassing than forgetting someone's name shortly after meeting them or after running into them repeatedly. Thankfully, there's a good app to solve this problem: Namerick ($.99). The app lets you quickly record a name and jot down notes about the person, such as what they're wearing, where and when you first met, and other identifiers. You can search names and notes to recall names, too.
Pity the suffering introvert who stands alone in a room full of strangers. Where's a good wingman when you need one? Talk to me, Goose! Don't let this happen to you. Get Sonar (free), an app that helps you find friends nearby. When you find yourself alone, just fire up the app, sign in via Facebook or Foursquare, and see friends on your social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) who are physically around you.
One way to increase your chances of meeting like-minded people is through Vivastream (free) – a social platform for business professionals. Conferences can get very crowded, and Vivastream helps you filter and find people. Simply join the Vivastream network using your profile in LinkedIn. Pick tags that best reflect your interests and expertise. You'll be able to find people on Vivastream who are attending the event (even particular sessions) and have tags relevant to your own.
Custom Conference App
Chances are the conference you're attending has a custom built and branded iPhone app for attendees, perhaps powered by app developer DoubleDutch. Be sure to download this app before you go. It should have all the basic stuff: agenda, speaker bios, map, nearby restaurants, sponsors section, schedule planner and more. Don't be one of those "analog" guys carrying around a printed map in your back pocket.
When meeting strangers, it's best to find common conversational ground. What are people talking about? If you're not on Twitter (free), you better get with it. Conferences almost always use Twitter hashtags, so you can search what attendees are tweeting about. This will give you a sense of the conference's main themes, which make great conversation starters.
Some custom-conference apps also have a social stream for attendees only – another good place to get up to conversational speed.
If you're a business professional not on the social network LinkedIn (free), then fuggedaboutit. A bunch of conference networking apps won't be enough to save you. LinkedIn has more than 200 million members, each with their work history, recommendations and business profile. It's the best way to grow your professional network and stay up-to-date on industry news and job openings. When you connect with people at conferences, they'll want to connect with you over LinkedIn, too.
At a conference, it's all about swapping business cards. This meant inputting contact information into your address book when you got home. With CamCard (free), just snap a picture of the card and you're done. Sure, some iPhone business reader apps wirelessly link up phones, but that seems a little intimate for someone you just met. Besides, it's hard to refuse such a request. Just gimme your damn card.
Similar business-card scanner apps include CardMunch (free) and WorldCard Mobile ($6.99).
Another way to share contact information is electronically through apps like Contxts (free). Contxts, for instance, lets you share contact details quickly via text message, email or bump technology (which isn't supported on the iPhone). "The app is free, and not only makes networking easier, but brings it into the increasingly paperless 21st century, too," says a Longhorn Leads blog post entitled 10 of the Best iPhone Apps to Help You Network at a Conference.
How to Network
Despite all the app tools on your iPhone, business networking at conferences boils down to good people skills. Brush up on these skills by watching videos of experts giving networking tips on How to Network (free). There's a six-video chapter on networking at a conference with titles ranging from "Coffee: the Secret to Winning at Business Conferences" to "Why You Should Never Approach a Speaker After a Panel Discussion."
So what does your company do? This question will inevitably come up during a conversation at a conference. You need to have a short, entertaining and accurate answer. Even better, show them. Junos Pulse (free) allows you to connect to the corporate Juniper Networks SA Series SSL VPN gateway and gain access to business apps and data over your iPhone.
"This free app is ideal for networking, as it allows you to show potential connections what your business is all about, rather than just telling them about it," says Longhorn Leads.
Conferences are not only places for learning and networking, you might want to get a little sales work done. With Salesforce Chatter (free), you can access Salesforce records, such as accounts and leads, on the iPhone. Nothing like creating leads and closing deals with people you've just met. Great salespeople never miss opportunities, and conferences are chock full of them.
First impressions and initial conversations are critical, yet people get turned off when someone pulls out their iPhone and breaks off eye contact to check the time. With an iWatch, you could discreetly glance at your watch without disrupting the conversation. And, of course, an iWatch would make you the most popular guy in the room. (See Google, Apple Targeting Geeks with Wearable Computers.)
At most conferences, beer is flowing freely as a way to grease the wheels of social chatter. But if you imbibe, then pace yourself. Don't be that guy. You might want to download Intoxicase (free) to track your beer consumption and estimate your blood alcohol content level. Added bonus: Intoxicase iPhone case ($25) has a built-in bottle opener – a cool conversation starter.