For many years, networking events have been the business professional’s “go-to” approach in order to build their brand and build their reputation within their industry. As most experts know, whether you love them or hate them, networking events are one of those parts of being in business that you just need to accept. However, simply showing up to a networking event is only half the battle. Simply being there isn’t enough. You can show up to 100 networking events but if you don’t make the most of them, you might as well have stayed home.
If you are going to attend networking events, then you need to know how to make the most of your time. The right networking event can help you meet like-minded peers, form new connections with potential partners and they can even help you find a job. There are so many people who know the benefits of networking and so many who attend these events. However, most people simply show up. They do not plan ahead and they do not think about how they can make the most of the opportunity they have in front of them.
Networking events aren’t always easy, but if you are going to take the time to go, then you may as well take the time to make sure you are making the most of your time at this event. Here are some tips to make sure that you are impressing at your next networking event and making the most of your time when you are there.
Do Your Homework
Before you go to a networking event, you need a plan for what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. You must be willing to do your homework. Research and find out who is going to be there and who you want to talk to. Look at who is attending, check out their LinkedIn profiles and learn the basics about some of these key individuals. This will make it easier for you to form connections with these individuals so you can strike up a more natural, and more beneficial conversation.
You should always have an end-goal in mind when it comes to any networking event. Think about what your purpose is for being there. Are you there to make a sale? Are you there to find a potential new job? Think about your goal and write it out. Then, make notes for yourself about how you are going to reach this goal at your event. How many people are you going to talk to? How many business cards are you going to hand out?
Going into the event with this type of mindset is one of the best ways to make sure you are utilizing the opportunity in front of you and doing more than just showing up. It will take a certain type of boldness and you will really need to put yourself out there, but if you go in with a plan and a goal for how many people you are going to talk to, then you are setting yourself up for success.
Find ways to break up the initial awkwardness.
One of the biggest complaints that people tend to have about networking events is that they can be somewhat awkward. There is not much you can do about the general feeling about these gatherings, but there are things that you can do in order to break up the awkwardness. The first and most important thing is that you should never feel self-conscious at one of these events, and if you do you need to hide it.
Go into the event with confidence and don’t be afraid to start talking to people. If you want to push through the initial awkwardness in talking to strangers, then you need to be willing to put yourself out there. It is really not as hard as it seems, even for those who are introverts. Don’t stand off to the side, looking at the floor or crossing your arms. Stand up straight and maintain open and friendly body language. Start introducing yourself. Simply go up to someone who isn’t in a conversation, say “hello” shake hands and tell them who you are. Then start asking them about who they are and what they do. It can be uncomfortable, but try to introduce yourself to at least five people, by the third or fourth, it won’t seem so awkward. Remember, if you are relaxed and make it seem natural, then the other party will be more relaxed as well.
If you want to strike up meaningful conversations, start by asking a lot of questions. Most people, particularly people at these types of events, are primarily interested in talking about themselves. The more you ask them about themselves, the more they will start to talk. This is a great way to get a feeling for the person you are talking to and a way to find out if they can be a positive professional connection for you in the future. They may not be a great fit for you, but maybe there is someone else you know at the event who would be a great “connection” for that person. If this is the case, introduce these two parties.
When you are asking questions, make sure that you are actually listening to the answers, you never know what someone may have to say that can help you out down the line. The more questions you ask the better, just make sure whenever you are in a conversation with someone that you are being polite and considerate and that you never leave the conversation to pursue a more important one. You don’t want to offend anyone at these events and you never know when you may offend the wrong person and when your rude behavior may come back to bite you in the end.
Give every person you are talking to your full attention, do not scan the room. When you are done with the event, go jot down some notes to help you remember who you talked to and what you talked to them about. Do not take notes during the event when you are talking to people. It will come off as socially awkward and inappropriate and can turn some people off.
As you go around and meet people, it is important to remember that quality is of the utmost importance, not quantity. Having five meaningful conversations with people at a networking event is going to be much more beneficial to you and your business than just saying “hello” to twenty people without getting to know them more.
Carrying business cards that stand out.
Business cards are one of the most important tools that you can use at a networking event, but you need to be careful when it comes to the types of business cards that you have and hand out. You need to make sure that you are carrying around the right business cards. When you think about it, almost everyone at this networking event is going to be carrying around a stack of business cards. Chances are most of them are going to look the same.
If you carry around business cards that stand out, it can help you get noticed and it can help people remember you after the event. It is also a great talking point. Handing a person a unique looking business card is a much better conversation starter than handing someone a plain, all white card. It may cost a little money, but it is very important that you take the time to really think about and design the right business card for your business and for your reputation. The more you stand out, the better.
When it comes to business cards, you need to make sure that you aren’t only handing plenty of your unique-looking business cards out, but that you are also gathering business cards as well. After the event, look through your business cards and your notes to see if there is someone that you want to follow up with. A great rule of thumb is to call or contact this person within 72 hours of meeting them at the social networking event. Don’t contact them that evening, but within the next day or two. It shows that you are interested without being too aggressive. If you wait any longer, it may seem like you aren’t interested in following up.
If you keep these important rules in mind whenever you attend a networking event, you are setting yourself up for success. It takes a lot of time and energy in order to attend these networking events and it is important that you are doing what you can in order to make the most of the opportunity in front of you so you can make your networking event the most profitable and successful as possible. Just a few very successful networking events under your belt can go a long way in transforming your network and your career.