The key to getting the most out of your next networking event is to be prepared. Networking events should expand your current network and hopefully connect you to your next lead or potential client. Building relationships may seem like a fluffy, soft skill but that does not mean it is not necessary when growing your company.
“It isn’t just what you know, and it isn’t just who you know. It’s actually who you know, who knows you, and what you do for a living.” -Bob Burg, Best-selling Author of Endless Referrals and The Go Giver
Below are the seven ways I prepare for networking events to make sure they are productive and not a waste of my time.
1. Professional attire is a must for a networking event.
When you look good, you feel good. When you feel good you can focus better on the tasks at hand. It is always better to be the best-dressed person in the room rather than not dressed up enough. If you are questioning what to wear to a networking event the safer bet to be on the dressier side. Remember that you will be meeting most of the people at the event for the first time. First impressions matter!
2. Organize your networking materials in one place.
Get organized! When meeting people, especially for the first time, it is important to be organized and professional. Having all your promotional materials, such as your business card, brochures and flyers, all in one place and easily accessible will make you look prepared and won’t distract from the conversation. You can simply use a clipboard to secure all your items or something as fancy as a leather portfolio.
3. Don’t forget lots and lots of business cards.
The worst thing that can happen when you are out meeting people is to run out of business cards. Always check before leaving the office to make sure you have an extra stash with you. I even keep a handful in my car in case I am not able to make it back to the office before the event.
4. Grab your company’s promotional materials.
If you meet someone who could use your services, is interested in attending your event or wants to learn more about your company you need to be prepared with the necessary documents. Make sure to bring any type of document with you that can help you make the case for engaging further with you and your company!
5. Bring a curious and positive attitude.
Networking is about meeting and learning about other people. Having the right mindset when attending a networking event is crucial. People can tell right away if you are engaged in the conversation or just moving through the motions. Be curious about who they are and what their company does and they will reciprocate that curiosity!
6. Prepare engaging questions to initiate meaningful conversations.
Prepare for each networking event like you would an actual meeting. Who will be there? What industries? What information are you trying to gain? Is there a specific person attending the event that you want to meet? Find 10 of my favorite networking questions here!
7. Take ideas for referrals and connections.
Did you just meet someone who offers a great product or service but isn’t something you need? Do you know someone who could benefit? Be ready to connect people you know with the people you are meeting! Anytime you can help someone with a referral they are more likely to do the same for you. Networking is informing people of what you do so they can help connect you to your next lead or potential client. It is really true that givers gain!
The next time you sign up for a networking event prepare with these seven tips and you will go to the event more prepared and ready to have great conversations and make useful connections.