Networking can be a valuable way to meet new people, gather new information, and ultimately build new relationships. However, attending a networking event can be intimidating. With a little bit of preparation and following these simple steps below, you can easily make the most of your networking event.
Before the Event
When you do decide that you wish to attend a networking event, make sure that you are prepared and focused on the correct objectives.
Understand your personal strategy
Before deciding you need to attend a networking event, make sure you are working on the right strategy for you.
A networking event is only one way in which you can meet and engage new people. Take a moment to read How To Build A Strong Professional Network and make sure you are putting your energy in the right direction.
Be in the right room
Make sure you are in the right room. There is no sense in attending an event for Real Estate Agents if you are seeking Investors for your next venture. Use these resources to find the right events in your local area.
All of these sites allow you to find “The Right Room”. Search for events that are happening in your area and dress for the occasion. You might end up going to a Salsa Lesson for the evening.
Do Your Homework
Make sure you’re asking the right questions before attending the event. At a bare minimum you should have a good answer to these questions:
- Who is speaking?
- Who is hosting the event?
- Who is going to be in attendance?
Additionally you should prepare some general questions before attending the event. If the event is focused on a particular topic or speaker, then prepare some questions that you can ask the speaker or fellow attendees.
- Why are you here today?
- What are your thoughts on X?
- Is there anything about “Y” that you really liked today?
- Is there anything that you disagreed with the speaker about?
- What was your biggest take away from today?
- Was there anything that you think was missing from the speaker?
These are open ended questions that help you get to know the other person. You can find some additional networking questions from Harvard Law School.
Host a dinner before the event
As Jayson Gaignard explains in his book Mastermind Dinners, you can usually find a list of attendees before the event and invite them to dinner before the event.
It can give you an opportunity to meet some people before hand and make you more comfortable meeting other individuals during the actual event.
During the Event
When you’re at the event, you should follow these simple guidelines in order to make the most of the event.
Leave the phone at home
If that’s not possible, then turn it off. This is an absolute must. Relationships aren’t built with you standing there looking at your phone.
Simon Sinek in a recent video explains why there should be no cell phones in the conference room and it extends perfectly to events, especially networking events.
Christopher Barret in his video successful networking also shares the same issue he had with his phone at the event he was attending.
Go with a buddy
This is a very simple and straight forward option, but having a buddy can greatly increase your confidence and help you meet more people. Besides, with a buddy, you can reach twice as many people.
Bring something to write on
Use it to keep notes on conversations and keep points. This works magic and truly shows that you care about what the other person is saying.
You can purchase an extra small moleskin from Amazon that is perfect for small notes and thoughts.
Smiling has profound effects. From reducing blood pressure to instantly making you more approachable, smiling is the easiest way to approach people.
Try not to give an elevator pitch
Judy Robinett, in her book Power Connectors, recommends having an unscripted story about yourself that directly avoids talking about your work and focuses more on things that you enjoy and like.
- Develop a share that tells who you are, what you’re about, and what you’re interested. Talk about family, hobbies, and community involvement.
- Try to quickly add value to the other person. Ask “How can I help?” and “Can any of my contacts be of assistance?”
- Ask “What ideas do you have for me?” and finally “Who else do you know who I should talk to?”
You can find more at her blog Judy Robinett.com
Focus on the person in front of you
When you’re with an individual, focus on the person in front of you. When your eyes are darting around the room, people can tell you are not engaged or interested.
Focus on building rapport with the other individual. Take a look at 10 Easy Ways to Build Quick Rapport with Anyone by The Week for additional assistance.
Bring people together
After having met two people, try to bring those two individuals together. Simply ask one of the them, “Have you met ‘so and so’ yet?”
If they haven’t, just lead them to each other and be a facilitator of a new connection. While it may feel awkward, if you know they have mutual interests or complementary skills, it may be worth introducing them to each other.
This is a very easy way to instantly provide value to someone you just met because most people are hesitant to meet new people.
Be conservative with your business card
Most people tend to be very liberal with their business card, but frankly most people treat business cards like coupons. “Oh that’s nice, let me put that in my pile I’ll never look at again.”
If you discover a mutual interest and you genuinely wish to follow up with that individual, then ask for a business card first, and then offer yours.
Find and thank the host
The host is usually overlooked at a networking event. Take the time to find the host of the event and thank them for putting on the event. Also take the time to thank the volunteers and helpers for the event.
Allow yourself to leave
You need to be able to let yourself leave. As Susan Caine mentioned in her interview with Marie Forleo on Networking for Introverts, you need to allow yourself to leave. Whether that point is in 30 minutes, 2 hours, or 4 hours, allow yourself to leave the networking event.
After the event
It is critical to follow up with people after the event and follow these simple steps.
This is a very easy schedule that you can use to follow up with someone you’ve just met:
1 day: Within 24 hours, you should connect with that individual and thank them for their time and do anything that you might have offered.
1 week: Connect with that individual again, and (based on the conversation) share something of value: an article, a contact, or even just a thought on something their working on.
1 month: Follow up and ask once again how you can be of service to them. Also see if there is anyone they think you should meet too.
Add them on LinkedIn
If you met them in person, you are absolutely allowed to add them on LinkedIn. This gives you another touch point, shows that you are interested in helping that individual, and allows you to stay up to date with them.
After they accept the invite, go back to their profile and add yourself a reminder!
Continue to add value
The whole point of networking is to build new, mutually beneficial relationships. This requires that you continue to go out of your way to help that individual. Now if the other individual does not want to reciprocate, then you may need to reconsider that relationship. But if you build a two-way street, then that relationship should flourish.
Ryze | The Personal Relationship Manager is a tool for the man or woman who values the power of relationships. Stay on top of those relationships that matter to you!