Networking isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. But you shouldn’t treat each interaction you that make at a networking event like a marathon. You should make each interaction a sprint.
Let us break it down for you.
The objective of a networking event is to bring together professionals to accelerate connections and relationships. A networking event is a great opportunity to increase professional visibility and to foster strategic alliances, joint ventures and referrals. It’s also a great opportunity to learn, recruit and socialize.
But it is vital to arrive to the event prepared, and we don’t just mean by bringing all of the business cards you own. (Though you should do that. Interested in learning more about business card etiquette?) We mean that it’s very crucial to arrive prepared with an agenda.
Have you ever attended a networking event and wished you could have made more connections?
Have you ever had a hard time ending a conversation so that you could meet other people?
A personal agenda will allow you to stay focused and alert during the event. It’s unfortunate to spend the majority of your time, either out of courtesy, necessity or convenience, by speaking with only a few individuals. Make it a goal to interact with at least 10 people, and you will naturally find yourself setting a limit on the amount of time spent on each interaction. Make it a sprint.
We think it’s a good idea to approach each interaction with 7 simple steps.
- Introduce yourself by first and last name
- Share your 30 second elevator pitch about who you are, what kind of work you do, and why you’re attending this event.
- Chat about your work, about local news, about topics of interest. Avoid anything too personal, offensive, or highly controversial.
- Request a business card from your conversation partner. Offer yours in return.
- Close and move on by thanking the person for speaking with you (or for meeting with you) and by saying something positive either about the conversation or the person. “I enjoyed meeting you” is minimal, “I enjoyed learning about the work you do in marketing at IBM” is stronger.
- Take notes. After walking away from the person you just spoke with, take a few moments to write a few notes on the conversation on the back of the business card to help you remember what you talked about.
- Follow-up to convert the interaction into a connection. Send an email within 24 hours to the person with whom you spoke, and thank them for meeting with you (or speaking with you) and try to reference something specific that was discussed during your conversation with the person.
Other things to keep in mind:
As a part of your networking agenda, set the goals you wish to accomplish for the event.
Are you looking to recruit new talent for your business? Focus on finding those who are looking for jobs. Are you interested in finding a website developer? Locate digital marketing professionals. Make sure you share your objective with those you meet–it will streamline the interaction and allow for you to move on to find who you need to speak with.
Remember, the purpose of networking events is to network, not to socialize.
While networking events may feel forced or unnatural, it is crucial to avoid socializing or lingering too long with already-made connections. Spend some time interacting with the people you already know, but be sure to move on to speak with folks you don’t already know as well. Remember that the point of attending a networking event is to create new alliances.
So why dread your next networking event? Follow some of the tips above and you will be well on your way to making valuable connections for your future.
Interested in attending a networking event in the NC Triangle? We like to think of ourselves as providing premiere networking experience in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. SpeedLink is a networking event that brings together business owners and professionals from across the Triangle.
Based on the format of speed dating, participants are allowed five minutes to network with each new person they meet. Once the five minutes is up, attendees move to the next new person. This is a fun, organized and well structured even where you will make many new connections in just two hours!
Interested in registering for our next event? Check out our calendar and schedule time to push your business forward!