Going to networking events is a part of any business professionals life. Networking events come in the form of:
- Business After Hours
- Referral Marketing Groups
- Lead Exchanges
- Chamber Events
- Trade Shows
- Award Ceremonies
But did you know there are ways to more effectively maximize your time at networking events? Ways to better engage with those you encounter? An approach that is more strategic? Let’s break down a networking event into three major components and identify how we can maximize each for any given networking event.
- Dress accordingly. “Business Casual” is very different than “Black-Tie Optional.”
- Ensure you have plenty of business cards, breath mints, and preferably your own personal name tag (perfect way to brand yourself!).
- Arrive 15-30 minutes early to allow ample time to network.
- Set goals for the event. For example, how many business cards would you like to receive? How many individuals will you request to connect with on LinkedIn? How many people will you introduce to others? Who are the top 5 professionals you would like to have a conversation with?
- Check your attitude at the door…in other words enter with a smile no matter how your day has been.
- Review your message tracks and your elevator pitch – you want to remain sharp.
- If you or your company is a sponsor of the event, ensure that you are prepared to to honor that opportunity; if you are not a sponsor, consider it for next time.
During the Event:
- Remember, it’s net-working not net-sitting.
- Work the room. Don’t remain in one place.
- Touch base with those you know.
- Introduce others.
- Watch your time with people. There are people out there who will dominate your time if you let them.
- Target key players in the room but don’t treat them like “celebrities,” rather another person you are happy to meet – they will appreciate it!
- Be mindful of how you engage with others – make eye contact, be inviting to others to join you in your conversation, be present, keep a nice posture, listen.
- Know people’s names, even if you need to use their name badge as a reminder.
- A drink in hand makes you more approachable. Really.
- “See a need, meet a need.” Volunteer your help if the situation presents itself.
- Greet and thank the event organizer, sponsors, and award nominees (if applicable).
- Be mindful of the time you have to network.
- Take pictures during the event to post on Social Media.
- Act like a host/greeter if you are nervous or don’t know a soul. Chances are you will meet others who feel the same.
- Be sure you have a “hand-off.” In other words, an upcoming event your company is hosting to invite key people to.
- Talk with others about the event itself to show your support.
- Find those wallflowers in the room and engage with them.
- Be a responsible drinker. While we want to be memorable, there are ways we don’t want to be memorable.
- Send congratulation letters/cards/emails to the winners, finalists, event organizers, and sponsors.
- Follow up with those you met with a phone call, email, or on LinkedIn.
- Remember that “hand-off,” whom you gave it to, and follow up if appropriate.
- Post your event photos on Social Media.
- Evaluate the event as it relates to meeting your key objectives: pros, cons, what to improve on.
- For trade show-type events, use the contact information you gathered to create and utilize a drip campaign (i.e. newsletters, emails, product catalogs, phone calls).
On the surface, any networking event can appear to be purely social. And while it can certainly be just that, why not take advantage of the opportunity to elevate your presence and make a bigger impact?
Keep it disciplined.