The most common advice you will hear when it comes to finding a job is to network, then network some more. Attending networking events expands your circle of contacts and helps keep you on the forefront of people’s minds. Connecting with another professional for even just a few minutes at an event could lead to future referrals, partnerships or even job offers. But have you ever wondered exactly how it is done?
Before the Event - Get Your Game Plan Straight
Set some realistic goals for yourself beforehand. Are you attending the event to meet new people in your industry? Perhaps you’re there to reconnect with friends and bolster preexisting connections. People attend networking events for different reasons, and once you establish a game plan, keeping these targets in mind will help you stay focused.
Get Rid of the Jitters
Networking newbies may worry about questions like “What if I’m overdressed?” If you are feeling uneasy, contact the event coordinator and find out details like dress code and how large of a crowd to expect. Eliminating unknown factors will help minimize your pre-event jitters.
During the Event - Arrive Early
Make every effort to arrive to the event early. Arriving before the crowd will allow you to familiarize yourself with your surroundings, secure a prime viewing location and establish early rapport with attendees.
Start a Conversation
If there is a key person you’d like to meet before the end of the night, one strategy for a smooth introduction is to ask your host to introduce the two of you. If you don't see many familiar faces in the crowd, start with striking up a conversation with people standing alone, then work your way up to larger groups as your comfort level rises. If you came with colleagues, fight the urge to stay with them the entire event. Move around and speak with new people – it’s what you’re there for!
Plan Ahead of Time
There are certain questions that are bound to come up when you are first introduced to a person. Make sure you have a succinct and interesting description of yourself and occupation ready beforehand to ensure a steady flow of conversation.
Be a Good Listener
It’s a good idea to pay close attention to the conversations you have with people. Ask questions to get a better idea about the person. Even if you don’t get much time to discuss what you do, commit the basics of your conversation to memory so that you can follow up with the person at a later time.
After the Event - Handling Business Cards
It can be hard to place a face with the stack of business cards that you bring home from a successful event, so only ask for business cards if you are genuinely interested in cultivating a relationship with the person. When you get home, take a few moments to jot down a couple of notes about each person on the back of their card. Do they have kids? Are they in the process of remodeling their home? If its been a while since you've last spoken to them, use these notes to jog your memory next time you get in touch.
Strike While The Iron's Hot
If you’ve had a great conversation with someone and exchanged contact information, make sure to initiate contact with them within 72 hours. Invite them to lunch and take your connection to the next level.
The ideal business relationship is beneficial to all parties involved, but that does not mean you will reap the benefits of your relationship within the first days of meeting. Start slowly and focus on cultivating a relationship rather than pressing the person for what it is you’re after. If you’re hoping for a job referral or a new customer, be patient and demonstrate how your friendship can benefit them.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to try and close deals. Grab a drink, meet some new faces and try to have a good time!
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