Many people attend networking events to gain something: job leads, referrals, exposure, connections, or opportunities to grow their business. Regardless of your reason for attending networking events, understanding the best practices will help you to make the most of your time, allowing you to form connections that will boost your career and help you to become a part of your profession’s community.
Follow these simple networking tips to get the most out of your time.
Prepare in advance
Before going to a networking event, make sure that you plan in advance. It’s easier to be friendly and confident when you fee prepared. If there are people from certain fields or companies that you would like to meet, then make a note of the top priority guests that you are most interested in speaking with.
It is important to start with a purpose in mind; know what you want to get out of the event before you walk into the room. Set a goal for how many people you will meet, how many appointments you will set, how many business cards you will collect and/or who you will reconnect with. And lastly, before you attend any networking event, get clear on what talents, strengths, skill sets and connections you can bring to the table. Every person has a value, and it’s essential that you know what yours is.
Step out of your comfort zone
Break away from the comfort zone of the people you know. If you want to get the most out of networking events then you must take initiative to strike up conversations first. The reward is always greater than the risk.
Have some talking points prepared, and go into a conversation with a purpose. When you ask questions, make sure you listen to the answers, as you may find similarities that you can talk about and may also find out that they have a need or a problem that you can help solve.
Build genuine connections
True networking occurs when there’s an understanding that everyone in the room has equal value. Many people who network either sell themselves or look to extract value from someone else. Instead, you should look to add value in your networking endeavours, starting out with the mind-set of helping the people you speak with. The more value you add to their lives, the more willing they will be to return the favour.
Ways in which you can do this:
- Introduce new connections to people you know in the field, benefiting both parties in widening their professional network;
- Share your expertise if you believe it can benefit someone else;
- Make a point to connect people you may think have a genuine value to each other.
Successful networkers are those who build genuine relationships and give more than they receive. Next time you are at a networking event, go beyond thinking “What’s in it for me?” to asking “How can I help?”
Follow up and follow through
If you told someone that you would get in touch with them, ensure you follow through with them and reaffirm your intent to assist in any way that you can. Similarly, if you promised to introduce someone to a person you know, take the time to do it.
Furthermore, it is important to consider your secondary goals. Think about how you want to further the connections you have already made, and start laying the groundwork towards these goals.