The key to having a successful event networking experience is preparation. Like cooking, it’s important to prepare your mise en place before firing up the stove. Like taking an exam, you’ll want to have studied on the night before the big day. You get the picture. Prep work is everything if you want to get the most out of networking at the event. Below are a few ways to practice and train for your next event.
1. Identify Your Networking Goals
Different people have different reasons for wanting to connect with other people. Before anything else, it’s important to identify what your reasons are. For example:
• Are you looking to find work? Focus should on connecting with hiring managers and company representatives with connections to HR.
• Is your startup in need of a co-founder? Look for startup incubators and venture capitalists to point you in the right direction.
2. Practice Your Talking Points
Interactions are part of daily life, which is a good thing as this means you have several opportunities to practice your PR skills. You’ll need this if you're shy or don’t have the confidence to meet new people. It can be something as simple introducing yourself to the barista, talking to another passenger on the train about how their day’s going so far, or talking to the waiter about the day’s specials.
3. Research Who’s Who at the Event
Get the most out of your networking experience by researching who might be at the event, perhaps through the event’s online guest or RSVP lists. Identifying who might attend the event lets you come up with a networking game plan, zeroing in on the people who could offer the most beneficial connections. And if you see certain individuals who appear to be interesting connections, you can follow them on social networks like LinkedIn or Twitter to warm yourself up to them.
4. Relax with the Elevator Sales Pitch
While it’s always a good idea to have a quick spiel to introduce yourself and whatever it is you do, don’t obsess over having a “perfect” elevator speech. Most people will know when an introduction sounds rehearsed, and if you want to make genuine connections, be as authentic as possible.
The better option is to think of good questions to ask people at the event, such as “What’s keeping you busy these days?” or “What brought you to join this event?”
5. Come to the Event Well Rested
Arriving at the event proper all tired and bleary-eyed will only impede your ability to strike up conversations with people. Get a good’s night sleep on the night before the event so you have a clear and alert mind the next day. Remember, great interactions with different people are all about quick thinking, something harder to do when you’re hungover or only got 3 hours of sleep the night before.
Effective networking is a delicate balance of being well prepared (e.g. doing your homework and having a game plan with goals) and being able to think on your fit. While preparation is important, your networking approach shouldn’t be too rigid. Always be ready to adapt to any social situation at events, which tend to be unpredictable.
Written by Tabitha Naylor
Curious about setting up great networking opportunities the next event you're organizing? Be sure to head back and catch the first two posts in this series on networking!