By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC
Networking is an important part of every person’s career. Whether you are looking for a new job or keeping your career options open, the strength of your network can have a significant impact on future opportunities.
Even if you are happy with where you are right now, there is no harm in growing your network of personal contacts. As the cliché goes, “better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it.”
Here are several event networking tips that will help you make the most of the next event you attend.
- Prepare For The Event
Who would you like to meet? Are there specific people you would like to talk to at the event? What are your goals, and what do you hope to achieve as result of attending this event? Take some time to strategize before you attend.
Contact the facilitator – especially if it is your first time attending. Ask if there are others in your area or industry that are planning to be there and will he / she make an introduction when you arrive. This way you are maximizing the event, adding to your network and enhancing someone else’s network.
Research the event online. Look up key people on social media. Learn something about them so you are prepared to make conversation with them. If it makes you feel more at ease, also prepare a list of questions you want to ask the people you will be meeting.
Though the business world is increasingly becoming more casual, preparing your formal wear is still a good idea, and will help you make a good impression.
- Show Up Early
Showing up early can make you feel more confident and less hurried. It may prove difficult to get in front of key people if you show up later. If you are one of the first to arrive, you may have the opportunity to meet organizers, decision-makers and influencers before they are inundated with questions and requests.
If these key people know what you are after, they may be able to make introductions or suggestions in terms of who you should meet. This is an added benefit of being first to arrive.
Staying late can also offer some of the same benefits, and may even help establish the reputation that you are a go-getter.
- Add Value To Others
Your number one priority at networking events should be to add value to others. Handing out business cards and sharing about yourself may be of some value, but best practice is to demonstrate interest in the people you are talking to first.
People enjoy sharing about themselves. By learning something about fellow networkers, you will become clearer on how you can help and add value to them. In some cases, you may not be able to do anything for them right now. Be sure to take their contact information and follow up with them later when you have something to offer.
- Follow Up
Networking begins with meeting people. If you do not follow up with them, you could be missing opportunities.
Take time to craft personalized emails for each of the new contacts you make. Remind them of who you are and how you met. If you referenced any resources in your conversation that you felt might benefit them – such as articles, webinars, podcasts, etc. – include a link to where they can learn more about them.
Following up within 24 hours is best practice.
Networking online has grown in popularity. Social media allows you to connect with just about anyone local or global. This can be immensely helpful when you are looking to connect with people in any capacity.
But, there is nothing quite like face-to-face interaction. You can create a stronger bond with the people you are talking to. They can put a face to a name and get a better sense of who you are and how you handle yourself.
So, if your networking efforts are primarily on social media right now, you should also begin incorporating offline activities into your calendar to build more worthwhile connections.
Let’s get to work!
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