When you read the words networking event, some of you probably smiled, while others shuddered. Whether networking is your favorite way to spend your time or you’d prefer a root canal instead, these tips will help you get the most out of any events you do attend.
1. Target the right events.
This seems simple, but it can be the difference between a miserable night and a productive one. Time spent carefully researching events is an investment in your success.
Identify who you are hoping to meet, then consider which events they are likely to attend. This may be events they are producing, presenting at, or just attending.
Ideally, find events you are also interested in attending. If your interests don’t overlap at all with your prospects, you won’t enjoy the networking event.
For example, let’s say you are targeting business owners in a mid-sized city. You could probably meet some at professional education and information events, some at local nonprofits, and others at sports or arts events. Start with the areas you enjoy.
When possible, pre-target specific people at events you will be attending. When you find out a target is attending a networking events, do some research and be ready to have a conversation with them.
2. Have a clear goal for the networking event.
If you want to end the night feeling like got the most out of a networking event, you need to start by defining what success would look like.
Your goal should be as specific as possible. For example, you might say you want to leave an event with five meetings scheduled with potential referral sources. Or you might want to leave with a meeting scheduled with one potential client.
Whatever your goal, make sure it is specific and measurable. And be reasonable – you’re unlikely to close a deal at the networking event, but you can certainly schedule a follow-up call or meeting.
3. Add value during and after the networking event.
The foundation to successful selling, and to any relationship, is adding value. Look for ways to add value to people both during and after the event.
During an event, look for ways you can help people make connections. Each time you meet someone, think of who else you met that you can connect them to. You can even consider people outside the event to introduce them to.
You can also add value in different ways. Ask people about their goals and challenges and see if you can provide any insight or resources. Recommend more events for people to attend. Share resources related to the event's theme.
After the event, continue to add value in all your interactions. You’ll soon be able to add your new connections to your circle of trusted relationships.
4. Follow up & connect with people quickly & specifically.
If you’ve ever gotten a “nice meeting you” email and wondered who on earth it was from, you know why I included this point.
We all meet a lot of people, and no one has a perfect memory. Make sure to follow up promptly after events, and be specific! Reference the name of the event, the date, and if possible, something you discussed.
For example, “It was great meeting you at the STEM in Schools Reception last night! I really enjoyed our conversation about the trends you’ve been seeing in job applicants in your field.”
In addition to sending a follow-up email, consider connecting with some people you met on social media, primarily LinkedIn. This can foster a stronger connection, as a single email conversation can be quickly forgotten.
If you add these new connections to your CRM system, make sure to note where you met them. You’ll probably forget it otherwise.
5. Remember the environment & act accordingly.
Remember to always match your behavior to the tone of the event.
If you are attending a holiday party or any other celebratory event, keep the business talk to a minimum. Connect with people, figure out if follow-up makes sense, and schedule a follow-up conversation to talk business.
Whether or not you talk business at the event, keep it professional. You don’t want to start any gossip! A few extra drinks can give you a reputation, and loose lips aren’t quickly forgotten. Keep your goals in mind and you should be fine.
I hope these tips are helpful as you work to get the most out of a networking event!
For more advice on networking, check out our eBook on Networking Like a Pro.