Do you ever feel apprehensive about attending a networking event (yet know it would behoove you to go)? Follow these helpful tips and we’ll maneuver you through your next event to make you look like a pro!
It all starts with choosing where you spend your time wisely and determining the purpose of your attendance before you go anywhere. If you’re not selective, you can easily spin your wheels attending anything to which you’re invited. Spend some time thinking about your intentions: Are you going for social reasons, to meet a specific person, to learn more about an organization/industry, to make referral partners or to find new clients (or a combination of these)? Once you know what your intentions are for your time at an event, you’ll be in a better position to determine which events are best suited for you. If you’re new to networking, spread your net wide initially and try a variety of events. But, be diligent to narrow your focus within a year (max) and choose 2-3 places/events to attend regularly and build strong connections.
Before you go to an event, do your research. What is the point of the event? Can you get a list of who will be there or who attended afterwards? Can you find out who the event organizer is and meet them to get introduced to the right people? Set yourself up for success before stepping into the room.
Speaking of your step, dress according to what the group wears. Look at pictures on their website and always air on the side of dressier to more casual. Like it or not, your appearance makes a first impression.
Now you’re at the event. What to do when you get there? If you can go with a “wingperson” that can help as long as you don’t stick with them all night. It can be a great way to break the ice, but then fan out and look out for the right contacts for one another. Do not stick together all night or else you’ll miss opportunities to meet new people.
Unlike what you were taught as a kid, don’t be afraid to talk to strangers! This is one of the only environments where people are there to meet new people and you should have no fear of doing that. Handing your card to someone is not an ice breaker, nor is leading with what you do without being asked. Begin by asking genuine questions of the people you meet and try to find some common ground. People love to talk about themselves and also love to find kinship with others so give them an opportunity to do that by listening more than you talk! Let them ask you what you do and for your card if they want to know/want one before you simply offer them up.
As you are meeting people, do not aim to meet as many as possible, rather, aim to make genuine connections. Three great conversations that lead to follow ups are much better than 10 business cards of people whom you barely remember. The goal is to meet a handful of the right people and/or just make some good connections. You never know who people know which can be very powerful for your goals. You don’t go to an event once expecting magic to happen. You need to anticipate coming back and becoming a regular to the events that are the right fit for your aims.
When the event ends, your work isn’t done… Now it’s time to follow up! Check out: How to Master the Art of Networking Follow Up!