I don’t know about you, but my schedule seems to get packed before a new month even begins. Your time is valuable, and like many small business owners, it’s also in high demand. So, hear me when I say this: Not all networking events are created equal and neither are the connections you’ll make. You want to foster new relationships and build connections for your business, so make sure the events you do attend are working for you!
Do Your Research
Do yourself a favor and take the time to research the event prior to RSVP’ing. Does this event reoccur and have an ongoing popularity? Can you find the event on social media with people marked as “going”? Is there a specific industry or mission that this networking event is geared towards? Do your due diligence and see if you think opportunity awaits versus a waste of time in the wrong place with the wrong people. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the host of the event to ask who their audience is geared towards or find past participants and message them to see what they thought of the last one they attended.
Be Prepared and Show Up Ready
Often, a quick interaction is all you’ll have with someone. Pack your business cards and have them somewhere easily accessible like in a pocket or slid into your name tag holder on your lanyard if the event supplies one. You don’t want to be digging in your Mary Poppins bag for 5 minutes while someone stares at you. If the venue is large and you’ll be covering a lot of ground and standing a lot, be sure to wear comfortable shoes. As tempting as those stylish 4” heels may seem, it’s doubtful you’ll be able to put your best foot forward if you’re in pain. Little things like bringing breath mints and a pocket mirror along (especially if this shindig will be feeding you) can help you feel your best.
Know Who You Are
The owner to that boutique you’ve been hoping to partner with is walking right towards you? Perfect chance to line something up – unless, of course, the only thing you remember about yourself is your first and last name. Even when we practice our elevator pitches and introduce our business a million times a week, there is something about networking events that can make us first-date level nervous. If you only had 30 seconds to share what makes what you do so amazing, what would you say? Think about a few major points you know are important to get across and write them down or put them in your phone before you get there. What do you do, and who do you serve? Maybe you have a new product or service launch you want to share or an exciting sponsorship opportunity you’re hoping to find a connection for?
Remember: You’re on a Mission
I know that charcuterie board looks amazing and that complimentary glass of Chardonnay is calling your name but stay focused! Take a look around the room and see if you recognize anyone that you’ve been hoping to meet or a new connection you’d like to rub elbows with again. You may see someone you know who can make a new connection for you as well. Don’t be afraid to be bold and ask for what you need or make yourself known when you see a shiny new connection on the horizon. It can sound cheesy, but at the end of the day, the old “it’s who you know” really rings true. Take mental notes of who you’re meeting and what you discussed, especially when it’s a long event. You can even write a few quick details on their business card to review later.
Don’t Let Them Forget You
You may have slayed at that networking event throwing, your business cards around like confetti, but you want to leave a lasting impression! Networking events are pointless unless you learn to kill it at the follow-up game! Follow people and their companies on social media and like and comment on any posts you find interesting. Take a few moments to send emails letting new connections know how much you enjoyed meeting them and look forward to connecting further. Don’t forget to mention where you met them in case they can’t quite recall and mention a few key points from your short conversation from those handy notes you took. If you are following up with someone who can truly be pivotal in your business journey or a specific project you’re working on, now is the perfect time to add an invitation for a coffee date or a short meeting!