15 Tips For Your Next Networking Event


1Have you ever walked into a networking event feeling incredibly awkward and thought, “Wow, I wish someone at Marketing Works would write a blog post featuring tips for my next networking event?” Well, this is your lucky day.  Grab your business cards, prep your elevator speech and buckle up, because you’re on the fast track to networking expertise!

Before the Event

  • Look at the RSVP list (if possible) to prepare for people to interact with. If this is not possible, contact the event coordinator for information about any speakers or presenters. Once you find out who else will be attending the events, do a little research and prepare questions and conversation topics for attendees you would like to network with. This will help you better interact with people at the event, and will make you appear prepared and thoughtful.
  • Don’t forget your business cards! Cards can either be exchanged at the beginning or end of a conversation.
  • Buy mints and/or gum (self explanatory). However, do not chew gum or suck on mints while speaking to someone at the event. It’s rude and distracting.
  • Put your phone on silent. If you’re expecting an urgent phone call, be prepared to step away. Otherwise, do not look at your phone during the event. Staring at your phone makes you appear disengaged and unapproachable.
  • Wear clothes that are appropriate for the event, but also comfortable. Most networking engagements are business casual or business professional. Dress well, but do not over-dress or under-dress. You want to be remembered for the content of your conversation, not the clothes that you’re wearing. Also, be sure to wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll likely be standing or walking around for the event.
  • Prepare an elevator speech. This does not have to be extensive. Rather, it should be a short introduction to yourself and an informational and genuine answer to the popular question, “So, what do you do?”

 

During the Event

  • Introduce yourself to the event coordinator. This person knows everyone that will be in attendance, and can be a big help for introductions. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help and thank them for facilitating the event.  A little kindness with the right person can go a long way.
  • Don’t eat or drink too much. You are there to expand your network, not break the world record for chicken wings eaten in an hour. If alcohol is served, have 1-2 drinks to loosen up, but do not over-indulge. Always keep one hand free for shaking hands.
  • Converse with confidence. Not everyone is the most confident speaker, but everyone is there for the same reason. Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to approach people and join conversations. If you’re looking to join a conversation, don’t butt in. Rather, approach the group, make eye contact with one person, and hopefully, they will invite you to join the conversation. Be wary of approaching 1-on-1 conversations, as they could be speaking about private or intimate topics. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, read this article on a ‘small talk’ approach that can work for anyone!
  • While conversing with someone, make eye contact, listen actively and ask genuine questions. Look for people who are alone, and invite them to join your conversation, if the timing allows. No one wants to be the lonely guy at these events, introduce people you know to other people. Sometimes, facilitating a new relationship between two contacts can be just as valuable as starting a new relationship yourself.
  • After a conversation, write down a few quick notes about the person: name, where they work, any personal info shared, and specific topics of conversation. You can either take these notes on the business card or carry a small notebook.
  • Before you leave, try to say goodbye to everyone you spoke to, especially the event coordinator. Thank them for organizing the event, and ask for any information about the next event. Again, if you’re feeling generous, offer to help with the planning and/or execution of future events.

 

After the Event:

  • Add your notes to a file, and update it after every event you attend.  This file will eventually hold important information regarding everyone you have met over the years. If you know someone is going to be at an event, bring up their file to jog your memory for conversation topics.
  • Add people you met on LinkedIn and send them a quick networking email message. Make sure to personalize the LinkedIn connection request so it is not the generic message.
  • If desired, set up a 1-to-1 meeting to develop the relationships further.

 

Networking events can help you grow both personally and professionally, as long as you are prepared! We hope these tips are helpful for your next event. If you have any other networking tips, feel free to leave them in the comments below!


Matt Balzer • May 19, 2015

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