Networking events are all about connections–they are great ways to expand your personal network. Successful networking is usually marked by business card exchanges; however, preparation is vital to making sure the main event goes as smoothly as possible.
Update your personal brand
A week or two before the event, dust off that box of business cards sitting on the shelf and make sure all the information is accurate and updated. This is the contact information you are giving to your connections; make sure they can reach you easily. This is a good time to review and reflect on the design of your card. Is it outdated? Does it reflect the persona you are trying to convey? If not, you might want to consider ordering new ones. Double check with the printing company to ensure you get the cards on time.
It is important to keep your online presence consistent with your professional brand. After the event, your connections only have your name and business card: enough information to track you online. Make sure your social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) appropriately brand your professional persona. More importantly, make sure your LinkedIn is updated so that it is consistent with the information you pitch during the event.
Look up the location
Venues help set the tone for events, as well as helps in planning. Firstly, looking at the venue can help you decide what to wear. There are many levels of business professional attire, and certain articles of clothing emit certain energies and messages. If the venue is modernesque, consider reflecting that vibe through your wardrobe. If the venue is traditional, stick to the basics.
Knowing the location of the venue is helpful is planning your day, especially if it is in another town. Planning ahead saves you from getting caught in rush-hour traffic, avoiding arriving late and flustered.
Review attendee list
If possible, see who is invited or attending the event. This will give you a sense of the people you may meet, including their areas of work. The benefit of knowing your audience is that you can create topics of conversation that adhere to the people that will be there. Think of ways to connect with them, whether or not they are in your area of work. A connection is still a connection–you never know what opportunities could come about.
Practice your pitch
Now that you have an idea of who you will be speaking to and topics of conversation, practice your 30-second “elevator pitch.” There is no need to memorize a script–you want to sound as natural as possible. However, it beneficial to have your pitch ready to go and in the back of your pocket if you ever need it. By practicing your pitch, and even some of the wording in your questions, you will feel comfortable and confident with what you are saying, even when you are speaking with someone who is not in your field.
Get your game face on
Your mood affects more than you think: facial expression, tone of voice, body language, and more importantly, your desire to mix and mingle. If you are arriving to the event right after work, or giving up your weekend to attend, give yourself a pep talk. Whether it be before you leave your house, in your car, or even on the walk up, take a little bit of time to mentally and emotionally prepare your mind and body to network. It is as simple as taking a couple of deep breaths. Remember, you are selling your brand–make sure to put your best foot forward.
Apply these 5 tips at our next free networking event: May 19th at the TOPO Distillery in Chapel Hill.