Whether you’re looking for a job or you are trying to promote your small business, networking events are a great way to meet and build connections with professionals from various industries. However, effective networking requires more than just showing up and passing out a few business cards. Here are 10 tips that will help you maximize the benefits of attending a networking event.
Prep Before You Go
Tip 1: Research! Be Well Informed
Learn as much as you can about the networking event before you go. Learn who is hosting the event and who the sponsors are, if any. Research their backgrounds to gain information about who they are and what they do. This information will help you pick out similarities you share with them, which may be a great conversation promoter. One good conversation could result in the development of a valued business relationship. If a guest list for the event is provided, you will be able to determine who is in your industry. Identify three to five people you definitely plan to speak with. Employ the help of the host or the host’s assistant to connect with these people prior to or during the event. Networking events with a panel discussion or guest speakers are a bonus in that they provide advice from industry experts. Learn about panel members to formulate a couple thoughtful, relevant questions for one or all of them that will make you stand out.
Tip 2: Have a Goal
Be sure to ask yourself why you are going to this particular networking event. From there, determine what you hope to accomplish at this event and what you hope to get out it. For example, aim to meet at least three new people or to get a job lead. Having set goals will help you stay focused and not wander around aimlessly.
Tip 3: Dress to Impress
Looking disheveled or too casual will definitely make an impression about you and your business—a bad impression. When deciding what to wear to the networking event, be sure to choose an outfit that is not only professional, but is also something that you feel comfortable in. Feeling good about what you’re wearing and how you look will translate into a confident demeanor that is attractive to others.
Tip 4: Don’t Forget to Bring Business Cards
This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but many people fail to bring enough business cards or forget to bring any at all. Don’t be that guy at the event who “oh, I just gave out my last one.” Bring more business cards than you think you’ll need. Put your cards in a card case so they do not get wrinkled or dirty. Plus, it looks more professional to pull your business card out of a card case than riffling through your bag to find one.
At the Event
Tip 5: Make a Meaningful Introduction
When introducing yourself to someone, be sure to make eye contact, smile, and state your first and last name while giving a firm, brief handshake. Carefully listen for the person’s name to start applying it to memory. Then say his/her name twice while you’re speaking to further commit it memory as well as making yourself sound interested in the conversation.
Tip 6: Let the Other Person Speak First
Networking pros suggest that you allow the other person to speak first. This is a good idea because, generally speaking, while the first person to speak is introducing himself, the other person is only half listening because she is more concerned with what she is about to say when it’s her turn to speak. So, by asking the other person a question and allowing her to speak first, you will increase the chance that she will be more calm and focused on what you are saying.
Tip 7: Show Interest and Sincerity
You can show that you are genuinely interested in what someone is saying by inquiring about his/her background. Be sure to have a few good, open-ended questions to ask that requires more than a yes or no answer. Examples of these questions include:
– How did you get started in your field?
– What projects are you currently working on?
– What do you enjoy most about working for your company?
Tip 8: Be Clear and to the Point
When you have the opportunity to explain to someone what you do, do so in only about two to three sentences. You can go into further detail later, but to start, keep it brief to lessen the likelihood that the other person will lose interest in what you are saying. Avoid using industry lingo because it can come across as being disingenuous and limit your ability to build a rapport with the person.
Tip 9: Take Good Notes
After speaking to a few people, briefly remove yourself from the action to jot down notes on the back of their business cards about who they are and what follow-up you plan to do. Simply relying on your memory to recall every interaction and encounter you have at the networking event is not a good idea, and could leave you staring at a mound of business cards not knowing who’s who. Remember, the whole purpose of attending a networking event is to make connections with people to be built upon over time, and taking good notes will help make the follow-up process easier.
After the Event
Tip 10: Follow Up on Connections You Made
Do not just send someone a generic LinkedIn invite and call that follow-up. A couple days after the event, send out personalized emails to everyone you would like to continue networking with. Be sure to mention something you discussed with that person during your conversation with him/her. Not only does this make the email more personal, it will also help jog the other person’s memory about who you are. Include a suggestion about how you two should connect further with one another. For example, suggest an in-person meeting to further discuss the ways you can network and how said network will benefit both parties.
Networking can be a great tool in your job search or the promotion of your business. With a proactive, strategic networking plan, you can be sure to make your mark at the event and maximize the potential therein. One last bonus tip, while at the event, be sure to relax and have fun!