Your presence at networking events isn’t enough. Success depends on preparation and how you interact with people while you’re there. Consider eight ways to make networking events work for you.
1. Set Realistic Goals
Before you attend, learn something about the event.
- What’s the purpose of the event?
- Who are its usual attendees?
- Is this a first-time or relatively new event, or does it have an established reputation?
Based on the answers you find, set goals you can realistically achieve while you’re there.
2. Introduce Yourself
For many people, conversations at networking events don’t come naturally. Take the initiative. Be determined to introduce yourself to at least five people. For everyone you meet, listen to their name and use it naturally during the conversation.
3. Listen Attentively
After you’ve introduced yourself, ask a question to get the conversation started. Listen attentively without interrupting. Show personal interest by asking another question or two. If you give someone the opportunity to speak first, you’re more likely to get a listening ear, and the conversation will be more relaxed.
4. Clearly Define Yourself
There’s no need to memorize it, but have a mental outline of how to accurately describe yourself, your background, your job role or your business. A few tips:
- Use two or three sentences.
- Avoid using company or industry jargon that people outside of the business wouldn’t readily understand.
- Get to the point and speak in terms people can understand. Otherwise, you won’t make connections.
- Ask a friend to listen to you and provide feedback on the way you describe yourself and your background.
5. Have Meaningful Conversations
Be determined to have meaningful conversations. Otherwise, the interaction will be forgotten by you and the people you meet. If you walk throughout the room, meet 50 people and have superficial conversations, it isn’t really networking. Take time to establish common ground and connections that will be remembered. Avoid using the time to sell or promote products.
6. Dress Appropriately
Choose an outfit that matches the setting of the networking event. The event website might specify a dress code or give you clues about it. Often, photos of previous events are available for you to see how to dress.
7. Bring Contact Cards
Bring a supply of professional contact cards to the networking event—more than you think you will need. Place them in a location that will keep them neat, clean and easily accessible during the event.
8. Follow Up
Ask for contact information from the people you want to keep in your network. Follow up in a few days via email, text or their preferred contact method. Maintain contact that shows sincerity and interest.
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