Industry specific networking events are ideal opportunities to make new connections to advance your career or expand your business. These connections may lead to the development of professional relationships that are maintained on a long-term basis. It is a good idea to prepare before a networking event so that you appear more natural on the outside and have a calm demeanour overall. Take advantage of opportunities to speak with prominent industry leaders when they arise.
Create a Names List
Create a list of high-profile attendees that you expect to be present at the event. Make it a point to introduce yourself and include a compliment regarding your admiration of their success. This shows the person of interest that you are genuinely interested in having a conversation and making a connection. Starting off a conversation on common ground is ideal. Plan to spend a minimum of five minutes speaking with each person on the list that is in attendance.
Make it a point to introduce yourself to at least two keynote speakers. Bring up an interesting point about their presentation or an interesting fact about their career. This grabs their attention and gets you in the door to make a lasting impression on them.
You will want to leave a few minutes between each person on your list to leave room for unexpected or extended conversations. If you are in the middle of an engaging and potentially promising conversation, finish it before moving onto the next person you wish to introduce yourself to.
Know what Inappropriate Behavior is
You want to make a lasting positive impression and not be known as the person who drank too much and caused a scene. You also do not want to be known as the person who only promoted themselves and not the industry. A networking event is not a job fair, and some treat it that way. It is important to know what appropriate behavior for these events is. Be polite and forget about indirectly applying for a job at these events.
Disconnect from Technology and Listen
It is important to stay off of your mobile devices at networking events. Your attention should be on the event, reaching out, and making new connections. Listen to what is being said around you. Listen when in a direct conversation with a well-known industry leader. The idea is to focus on what is happening around you, technology can wait until after the event.
Leave a Lasting Impression
Research studies show that smiling when speaking directly to someone for the first time leaves them more likely to remember your name, according to Stefania Righi, Ph.D. Smiling when meeting someone for the first time displays confidence, interest and a will to be successful. Making an impression strong enough for a stranger to remember your name is something to be happy about. It means that you stood out in a crowd of hundreds or thousands. You created a connection that may be valuable to you down the road.
Research Trends and Hot Topics
Even if you do not really fit in with the crowd at a networking event, you still have to be able to look and act like you belong there. If the only goal is to make connections to further your career or business, you have to know what is happening in an industry’s direct world. Make sure that you stay on-top of trends and hot topics in a specific industry. Discussing these events and potential solutions to issues surrounding these trends may get your foot in the door with a prominent industry leader.
Follow Up Afterwards
Following up after a major networking event is a must. If contact information was exchanged, send an email a week after the event to touch base. Attempt to schedule a meeting, conference call or dinner meeting to discuss potential business relationship opportunities, product releases and/or vendor possibilities. In the follow-up email, include part of your initial conversation to jog the memory of the person you are contacting. They probably met dozens of people at the event and may not be great with putting names and faces together.
Pay attention at networking events. If you should happen to see a group of people surrounding a specific area, there is an interesting conversation going on. It is okay to meander over and make yourself part of it. You may get noticed just for participating. Networking can be life-changing in a positive way. If you are looking to advance your career or expand your business, being confident and standing out positively at networking events is a good way to start.
About the Author
I am a regular writer for Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Media (among others), as well as CEO and Chairman of Alumnify Inc. Proud alum from 500 Startups and The University of San Diego. Follow me on Twitter @ajalumnify