Networking events are great for professionals who are looking to make new connections and gain bigger opportunities. They may attend certain events to get in touch with specific people, or they may go with hopes of diversifying their business contacts.
Networking events can help you engage with potential business partners, meet potential employers, and converse with people who have already achieved what you want to do. They’re also great opportunities to socialize and get more people acquainted with you as a person and as a skilled professional.
Prepare for the event by choosing an appropriate outfit. Whether the dress code is casual or business attire, pick something that makes you feel confident. You’re going to be meeting a lot of new people(a very taxing activity for some), and you want to make it easier by wearing something that makes you feel good about yourself.
You’ll also want to know why you’re going to the networking event in the first place. Is it to overcome shyness? Is it to meet new people you can collaborate with? Is it to meet the person you’d like to work for? Figure that out before going in because it will play a role in dictating your actions.
Get your business cards ready and organized for the event ahead of time. If you already have a nice set of business cards handy, keep them in a place where you won’t be able to forget them such as in your coat pocket, in your purse, or in your car. Take at least 20 business cards with youbecause you never know how many great people you’re going to meet! If you don’t already have business cards, you can design and print your own at home, or you can use a professional service such as Martin Print to make your cards for you.
At the Event
Be Approachable and Natural
Make sure to be friendly and approachable while at the event. Be attentive and always listen to the person you’re conversing with. Ask questions and show genuine interest in them because you’ll be more likely to forge beneficial connections that way. When people ask you about your career, don’t give them a lecture and don’t try to sell to them. Say a few brief words and respect that people attend these events to make connections, not to buy products and services. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to new people, especially if they’re someone you planned to meet!
Sticking with the group you attended the event with or talking to one person the whole time defeats the purpose of going to networking events. Try to meet as many people as you can without rushing your conversations, and be sure to hand out your business card to anyone you’d genuinely like to stay connected with. Don’t expect to gain everything from the first person you meet - they’re not there to do you favors! Move around and meet many people, even those who can’t offer a direct service to you. Of course, you won’t meet every single person at the event and you shouldn’t try to. The goal is to make at least a couple of great connections that can offer real mutual benefit.
After the event
When you get home from the event, add some of the people you met to your contacts and consider adding them on LinkedIn or Facebook. For the connections with serious potential, send them an email and let them know that you enjoyed meeting them at the event. Invite them out to lunch if you’d like to continue discussing business in person.
- Be the first to extend your hand and commit each person’s name to memory
- Be polite to each person you speak to whether they can help you or not
- Try to introduce yourself without promoting yourself
- If you’re an introvert, make sure that you make at least one good connection before heading out
- Don’t be afraid of rejection
- Smile and speak to people in a friendly manner
Remember, the only way to grow is to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Networking may not be the easiest thing to do, but it’s a worthy investment of time and effort. At the very least, try to attend one networking event per year to keep tabs on the professional climate in your industry. Even if you don’t expect to meet anyone influential, attending networking events is a good way to get out of your comfort zone and broaden your horizons.
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