Very few of us are masters of networking. You may be preparing for your first ever networking event or have attended hundreds; regardless of your experience it is very natural to be nervous. A good way to beat the nerves is to network with purpose; set objectives for the event and see how many of those objectives you can accomplish.
The main reason people attend networking events is to build connections. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, employed or looking for a job, you’re looking to connect with people that can help you accomplish your business goals.
Many of us are more comfortable attending networking events with a group or pairing. Sometimes it is more effective to go to these events solo. When you attend an event with people it is easy to get distracted and lose sight of the reason you attended the event to begin with. If you do end up going with a friend or business colleague, it’s important to still have your own goals and still find ways to make connections with new people.
Do some research, know who is attending the event, have a short list of people who you should be talking to and know what you want to talk about. This way, when the opportunity comes up to meet with the contact you’ve been looking for, you’ll be prepared and have a specific reason to speak with them.
Just as you should know what you’re looking for in a business contact, you should also know what you can offer. Networking is a two way street and people will want to know what it is that you can do for them. Make a list of your resources and think of ways that you can leverage your resources to help others.
If you are unsure of what to wear, many networking events have a dress code, find out what it is and follow it, but add in some of your own personal style. If the event doesn’t offer a dress code look to what some of the industry leaders are wearing and go from there. Typically, business causal is a great place to start.
For the event it is important to come prepared with all the proper tools. Have your business cards handy; bring a pen and a small note pad or utilize the “notes” app on your smartphone. Record some details about the connections you make between conversations. This is a great way to remember what you discussed with whom and gives you more information if you want to follow up with your newly made connection. Again, it is easy for people to get nervous at networking events and opting for some liquid courage can be enticing. However, liquid courage is a bad idea when it comes to making new business connections, hold off on the cocktails until after the event.
What you do after the event is just as important as what you do during the event. Now that you’ve made your new connections it is important to follow up once you get home. This is where the notes you made will come in handy, use them as a tool to keep the conversation going and strengthen your newly made relationships.
Despite your experience with networking, it can be tricky if you are not prepared. This is why it’s important to network with purpose, know who you want to make connections with, know what you can offer others, come prepared, make notes on the connections you make and nurture your new relationships post event. Not everyone you meet is going to want to connect with you, but stay at it, a brief connection at an event could lead into a valuable business relationship.