Do you prepare for the networking events you attend?

A networking event is a great way to connect with business people if you’re trying to expand your business or find job leads. While networking events can be truly rewarding, some find them a bit intimidating or even awkward. Properly preparing for a networking event can set you apart from the others. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of a networking event.

Prepare Yourself

Before leaving for the event, think about what you want to achieve and what type of connections you want to make. Think of some topics to discuss to get a conversation going: current events, sports and hobbies are usually good ice breakers. If possible, find out who will be at the event to make it easier for you to navigate the room. Bring plenty of business cards and dress accordingly.

At The Networking Event

Once you have arrived, ask the organizer if they could help direct you to people that would be of interest to you. Instead of walking around aimlessly, it’s best to single out the right people. Look for those whose business or organization meets your goals. Seek out those who are alone and strike up a conversation. Also, take the initiative and join in a group discussion. Be a good listener. Letting the other person speak first can put that person at ease.

The Elevator Pitch

This is a 30-second or so brief, but, to-the-point “pitch” of your talents or business. It is named for a conversation that could be completed during an elevator ride. Convey exactly what you are seeking, whether it is a business opportunity or a job. Be concise and enthusiastic. Express your personality. Make it interesting and memorable.

Work The Room

Don’t be tied to one person during the event. Mix and mingle. Be confident and keep your arms by your side. Folded arms convey a negative attitude. Have an exit strategy ready when your conversation winds down. It’s best not to force a conversation that seems to be done. Say how much you enjoyed talking with them and, depending how the conversation went, offer to keep in touch.

What Not To Do At The Event

Because some people are intimated by networking events, they will bring a friend. It’s best to go at it yourself so you won’t spend the whole time just talking to the person you came with instead of going around meeting people. Don’t go around the room handing out your business cards to everyone you see. Strike up a conversation with someone first before offering your card. Be selective with whom you want to talk with, don’t try to meet everyone there.

Following Up

Don’t wait on following up with the people you met, especially those that seem promising. Send the person an email and reflect on a point of the conversation. Personalizing the follow up rather than just saying it was a generic “it was nice meeting you” can go a long way.  Another way to contact with a person is through LinkedIn. Send them an invitation to LinkedIn to continue building the relationship and keeping in contact. Don’t be a “stalker,” repeatedly trying to contact someone that hasn’t responded to your email or call. Give the person a couple tries, if they don’t get back to you, move on.

There are many benefits to a networking event. Being prepared can put on track to expanding your business connections.

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