Navigating Your First Networking Event

Hey Loves,

Looking at the title you’d think I was a networking expert.  Truth, it’s my absolute least favorite thing to do  I’m not a huge fan of the meet and mingle the networking events so here is what I’ve been told to do before I grab my purse and go.

Before You Go:

Have A Goal

Before you get the event, ask yourself, “Why am I going?”.  Come up with two outcomes you hope to get out of the event – say meeting three new people or getting one new job lead.  Knowing ahead of time what you’re hoping to accomplish will help you stay focused – not aimlessly wandering around.

Dress To Impress

When you are planning your outfit, pick something professional – you won’t make an impression (at least not a good one) if you look disheveled, disorganized, or overly casual.  But also pick something that makes you feel good – a great dress or those new shoes you’ve been wanting to wear will help you exclude confidence in what can be uncomfortable setting.

Bring Business Cards

This one seems basic, but I can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten my business cards.  Bring more business cards than you think you will need and keep a stack of them in a card case.  This way, they don’t get crumbled in your purse and you can grab them quickly – its much more professional to pull out a card case than to go searching through your bag.

While You’re There

Make An Effective Introduction  

When you meet someone new; introduce yourself by making eye contact, smiling, stating your first and last name and giving a brief but firm handshake.  Then listen for the other person’s name (believe me, it’s easy to miss when you are nervous), then use it two times while speaking.  This will not only help you remember her name but also appear sincere and interested in the conversation.

Listen First, Then Speak

Heres a networking secret: Let the other person speak first.  Most people don’t realize this, but the person who talks about herself first is only being half listened to.  If your counterpart is preoccupied with what she’s going to say when it’s her turn to speak, she’ll only partially be listening to what you are saying.  But by asking the other person questions first, she’ll be much more relaxed and focused when the conversation turns to you.

Show Sincere Interest

Have a few questions in your back pocket.  Asking the person about her background and work will show her that you’re interested in more than just your own job opportunities.  The best questions are ones that can’t be answered by just “yes” or “no” such as:

  • How do you like working for your company?
  • What projects are you working on right now?
  • What’s your primary role at your company?
  • How did you get involved in your field?

Get To The Point

When it’s your turn to share what you do, state it in just 2 or 3 sentences (says my friend Tracie). You can delve into greater detail later on but people will lose interest very quickly if you can’t cut to the chase.  Similarly, avoid using industry jargon.  The key to effective networking is to build rapport, so if someone can’t understand what you are talking about, a connection won’t happen.

Take Note

You probably won’t remember important details about every conversation so it could be helpful to write them down. After meeting with a few people, find a corner of the room to subtly make notes on the back of each person’s business card about who she is, what you talked about and any follow up you want to do.  Remember, the purpose of a networking event is to connect with people in the future, and this will make following up with them much much easier.

After The Event

Follow Up

The day following the event, send a follow-up email to everyone you meet, you’d like to continue networking with.  Make sure to personalize each email, letting each person know you enjoyed meeting them and mentioning something you talked about.

Networking is the greatest tool in your business, client or job search, and by being prepared for the event, professional once you get there and proactive with your follow-up; you can make sure you get the most out of it.  Beyond that, relax and HAVE FUN!