Networking events can be incredible opportunities to find talent that fits your company to a T and return the favor for another organization. How much you get out of the process comes down to your interest, involvement, and knowledge of how to play the game.
Not sure if you’re networking know-how is up-to-date? Tap into the true power of developing connections at your next event with our pro preparation tips.
Tip #1: Get Your Business Cards Squared Away
Showing up at a networking event without ample business cards is like showing up at a birthday party without a present. Connections you make will expect to be able to get your contact information so they can use it later on, so make sure you have enough of them on hand!
Prepping for a networking event also happens to be a great time to evaluate your current card and give it a makeover if need be. Consider the following:
- Does your business card convey the professional image you want (no “transition cards” with phone numbers or addresses crossed out!).
- Are all cards clean and appear new? (Bent corners or weathered edges aren’t acceptable.)
- Do you have a polished holder to draw them from?
At the event, make sure that you’re cognizant of the way in which you hand out business cards. Do so respectfully by delivering each one right side up. Similarly, be considerate of where you store the cards you receive—don’t stuff them in your back pocket.
Tip #2: Wear a Conversation Starter
Striking up a conversation with someone you don’t know may be something you’ve got a knack for or something you dread. One way to make it easier for others to approach you is to wear a unique piece that can act as a conversation starter (on top of your polished outfit, of course).
An intricate broach or pin, a colorful scarf, or an eye-catching tie can be just the thing. If you happen to have something that has sentimental value, that’s even better. Launching into a brief story about the item’s significance can set the stage for the open-ended type of talk that happens to be the backbone of establishing a meaningful connection.
Tip #3: Eat Before, Drink After
The networking event you’re attending will probably have some sort of refreshments available, but just because food is present doesn’t mean you have to indulge. Eating and networking simultaneously is exceedingly difficult to master. Between juggling plates, dabbing your face, and trying to fish out a business card, it definitely works against the professionalism you’re striving for.
For that reason, it’s usually best to not risk having to deal with more etiquette than you have to. Tat before the event so you can focus on making connections. It’s wise to save cocktail sipping till later for the same reason. You want to make sure that you portray the best version of yourself and coming across as sloppy is certainly not the way to do it.
Bonus Tip! You can use the refreshment table as a device to either keep a conversation going or remove yourself from one that’s gone on too long.
Tip #4: Plan Ahead, but Keep Your Options Open
It’s useful to identify the people you want to meet at the event ahead of time, but don’t forget that part of your duty as a networkee is to help others find the connection that they need.
And this actually works in your favor as well. It’s a condition of human interaction to do something for others that owe you something. By offering your expertise where you can to other event attendees, they’re more likely to return the favor or find someone who can help you with what you’re looking for.
Bonus Tip! Make sure that you’re not talking to one person all night unless it’s your dream lead!
Ready, Set, Network!
When preparing for your next networking endeavor, a little bit of self-confidence goes a long way. Our featured tips will help you be professional while still being yourself, stay focused, and get conversations going.
If you found this post helpful, head over to the leadership category of Arden’s blog for leadership tips and tricks from our professional coaches.