Networking events are very popular in all types of industries and we see them in all shapes, styles and colors, but they have the same overall purpose. Making valuable connections with new people. Although, people attending social networking events often make a common mistake, they try get as many contacts as possible, as quickly as possible. While getting new contacts is a necessity for businesses (and the purpose of the networking event), it is important to also look at the quality of the contacts we are making while we attend these different events.
How do we judge the “quality” of the contacts that we are making at these events and be sure that they are worthwhile? The only way to do so is to “Get yourself out there”, to meet with and talk to people you don’t know. They key is to find how to best engage with the other people at the event, you cannot just sit back in the corner of the room and expect people to come to you.
Without engaging the attendees you do not already know at the event, how will you get the opportunity to make that lasting impression with a potentially great contact? Work the room, find areas where you will be able to meet new people (find the areas people flock to, like the bar or where the food is but, don’t bother someone when they are on their way to the bathroom). Take advantage of your opportunity to network!
It can be difficult to talk to only new people and you need to do your best to not gravitate to only people you know (probably one of the hardest things to avoid doing). You can use the connections you already have with people as a way to introduce yourself to a group but, you need to contribute to the conversation, not take over it. Also, remember you are at a “Networking Event”, spread a little good will/karma (however you think of it) and introduce your new acquaintances to other people you know! This not only makes you a good networker, but it has the potential to make an impression with the people you meet, indicating that you are genuine and not just out there to pitch them something.
In fact, drop the sales pitch and be a genuine person. Have real conversations with the people you are meeting. Relate to them and follow up with them afterwards (don’t wait too long though). Try sending them some additional information like an article or video about a topic you had been discussing. Doing something memorable can encourage the person want to contact you in the future. If you end up making that connection the first time around there will be time to “pitch” to them later on.
A few extra thoughts:
It may sound obvious but, remember your business cards. The people you meet at the event will also be meeting a lot of other people, you need to make sure that you are making that connection in a memorable way. It is safe to assume that without a hard copy of your contact information you will more than likely be forgotten in the mix.
Get to the event early. You will not be the only one there, and you have the opportunity to make some valuable connections early on. The other people at the event early are more likely to be receptive and not already engaged in conversation with other potential connections. This will also place you in the middle of the event where people will be coming in to you rather than the other way around.
When talking with other people at the event, pay attention, do not get distracted and look around the room or over someone’s shoulder. This takes your sincerity away from the conversation and is rude. The goal of these events is to make meaningful connections, if you are constantly on the lookout for the next person to talk to you will miss your opportunity to do just that.
Be proactive with your networking. Going to just one networking event will not give you all the connections you need. Use the it as a way to find other networking opportunities. Simple searches on Google for (marketing events your city) can give you plenty of opportunities and websites like Meetup were designed especially so that you can find networking opportunities near you and in your industry or field of interest.
Last of all, have fun! It’s a social event, enjoy yourself. This is an opportunity to be yourself (in a professional manner, not an overly relaxed party with your friends kind of way) in an environment with like-minded people. Take the time to share your experiences, communicate with new people and make quality connections for the future. Good Luck!
By: Renee Walrath