How to Get the Most out of Networking Events

When we talk about networking events, we need to start by addressing the elephant in the room:

Time is your most valuable commodity, and networking takes time. 

But here’s the deal—networking is also valuable. 

At least, it is when you know how to make the most out of the experience. 

You could spend your time just hanging out in the corner at an event, but it’s rather unlikely that you will receive a lot of value from doing so. 

Really, it’s not all that much different from most other endeavors: what you do has a direct correlation to what you get back.

When we talk about networking events, we need to start by addressing the elephant in the room:

Time is your most valuable commodity, and networking takes time. 

But here’s the deal—networking is also valuable. 

At least, it is when you know how to make the most out of the experience. 

You could spend your time just hanging out in the corner at an event, but it’s rather unlikely that you will receive a lot of value from doing so. 

Really, it’s not all that much different from most other endeavors: what you do has a direct correlation to what you get back.

Why the Discussion About Networking?

The reason we’re talking about this today is—as you might have heard—because we’re hosting a happy hour networking event on September 19 to celebrate our agency’s growth with our home community. 

(Please feel free to stop by any time between 4-7 p.m. for complimentary drinks, food, the chance to win prizes, and an opportunity to connect with local businesspeople and leaders.) 

While you’re at our open house, we want you to get the most out of it. 

And that raises a pretty simple question: 

How? 

Well, let’s look into this and see how to network at an event—so it’s a valuable experience for you from a professional and business point-of-view. 

Networking Tip #1—Know What You Want

If you are setting out to achieve something—such as expanding your professional network—the logical first step is to define what it is exactly that you are trying to accomplish. Right?  

This isn’t any different when it comes to building your professional network at special events. 

In this case, you need to define your macro and micro goals. And for optimal results, you should make them SMART. (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely, of course!) 

That being said, your macro goal probably won’t be terribly specific. After all, the big picture here is that you are looking to expand your professional network. 

Obviously, a major reason people do this is to hear about new employment opportunities, but there are many reasons you still might want to build your network, even if you’re quite happy doing what you do. Some of them include:

Finding potential business partners.

This is pretty straightforward—if you sell widgets, you benefit from meeting someone who just happens to need widgets and is looking for a supplier.

Learning about other industries.

Ever wonder exactly what is Bitcoin? Connect with a financial guru at a networking event and you might actually find out from someone who can put it in terms you’ll actually understand.

Finding a mentor in your field.

Sure, there are bound to be other industries represented, but you might get tremendous amount of value from establishing a connection with a leader in your own field.  (Of course, the vice versa holds true as well, and you could become a mentor and provide guidance for a younger professional.)

Getting new ideas and insights.

When professionals congregate, inspiration can strike easily. Listening to someone else describe how they solved a particular problem could help you with a similar issue that’s been a thorn in your own side.

That covers what is, in all likelihood, your macro goal, so let’s get a bit more granular for a moment. 

When it comes to micro goals for a networking event, the “specific” part of SMART goals comes into play quite a bit more.  

In this context, you may want to commit to meeting a certain number of people, leaving the event with X number of business cards, or finding a promising job lead.  

You might want to incorporate any of those reasons for building your network—the ones we just identified—such as connecting with a potential new customer or finding a mentor. 

Really, your micro goals will depend on exactly where you are in your professional career, and where you would like to go. 

Networking Tip #1—Know What You Want

If you are setting out to achieve something—such as expanding your professional network—the logical first step is to define what it is exactly that you are trying to accomplish. Right?  

This isn’t any different when it comes to building your professional network at special events. 

In this case, you need to define your macro and micro goals. And for optimal results, you should make them SMART. (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely, of course!) 

That being said, your macro goal probably won’t be terribly specific. After all, the big picture here is that you are looking to expand your professional network. 

Obviously, a major reason people do this is to hear about new employment opportunities, but there are many reasons you still might want to build your network, even if you’re quite happy doing what you do. Some of them include:

Finding potential business partners.

This is pretty straightforward—if you sell widgets, you benefit from meeting someone who just happens to need widgets and is looking for a supplier.

Learning about other industries.

Ever wonder exactly what is Bitcoin? Connect with a financial guru at a networking event and you might actually find out from someone who can put it in terms you’ll actually understand.

Finding a mentor in your field.

Sure, there are bound to be other industries represented, but you might get tremendous amount of value from establishing a connection with a leader in your own field.  (Of course, the vice versa holds true as well, and you could become a mentor and provide guidance for a younger professional.)

Getting new ideas and insights.

When professionals congregate, inspiration can strike easily. Listening to someone else describe how they solved a particular problem could help you with a similar issue that’s been a thorn in your own side.

That covers what is, in all likelihood, your macro goal, so let’s get a bit more granular for a moment. 

When it comes to micro goals for a networking event, the “specific” part of SMART goals comes into play quite a bit more.  

In this context, you may want to commit to meeting a certain number of people, leaving the event with X number of business cards, or finding a promising job lead.  

You might want to incorporate any of those reasons for building your network—the ones we just identified—such as connecting with a potential new customer or finding a mentor. 

Really, your micro goals will depend on exactly where you are in your professional career, and where you would like to go. 

Networking Tip #2—Channel Your Inner Boy or Girl Scout

Regardless of whether you were into scouting or not while growing up, there’s a decent chance you’re at least somewhat familiar with the Scout Motto: 

“Be Prepared.”  

Now, we aren’t saying this because you should bring camping gear to the networking event. Rather, you will feel more at ease and be able to garner more value from it if you prepare ahead of time. 

Specific ways you can be ready to network like a pro include: 

Plan what you’re going to wear.

The specifics here will depend on the actual event itself. Some are bound to be more formal in nature, but you should choose an outfit that is at least somewhat professional in nature—one that will help you make a good impression for potential business partners, colleagues, and employers. 

(At the same time, you obviously don’t want to wear an evening gown or tux if everyone else is going to have a “business casual” look.) 

Bring business cards.

Okay, we know “the 80’s called and want their business cards back,” but this is still a great way to exchange information, especially if you don’t want to commit to putting the info in your phone or connecting on social media at such an early stage. 

Bring enough business cards.

As a bonus tip, make sure you grab a couple more business cards than you think you’ll need. It’s less embarrassing to take extra cards home than having to tell someone “I just gave away my last business card.” 

Come up with questions.

The point of going to a networking event is making connections, and the best way to do so is to ask people about themselves. When you do, you want to ask ones that are open-ended and allow others to expand upon their answers. The people you talk with will appreciate the fact you’re showing interest in them, and you will learn more than you would from “yes” and “no” answers alone. 

Create your own introduction.

Along with questions for others, you should also prepare an introduction to who you are and what you do. This should be quick—2-3 sentences is just about right—and you need to keep in mind that you will likely have an opportunity to go into details later. 

Prepare some talking points.

You are going to engage in conversation during the event, so it’s best to be ready for this. That means reading industry news beforehand and having a couple of personal stories in mind to share when it’s your turn to talk. (Yes, you need to ask plenty of questions of others, but the spotlight will be pointed your way at times as well.) 

Networking Tip #3—Show No Fear

Look, we get it: Approaching people we don’t know can be quite intimidating for most of us.

Of course, there are some who are completely at ease striking up conversations with anyone. If you happen to be one of those people, you might want to just go ahead and skip to the next tip. Otherwise, let’s work through this together. 

Before you show up—or even once you walk through the door—you should remind yourself of this simple little fact: 

You aren’t the only one who is experiencing anxiety and insecurity.  

Even though everyone attends for the same basic reason of meeting people, the process of initiating conversation can be awkward for most people. 

So don’t focus on the distinct minority of those who do it gracefully, but remember that you’re one of the overwhelming majority who struggle with this—and that means most people are going to understanding. 

More than that, they will respect you for having the courage to attempt something so difficult. And that can make one heck of an impression. 

One more suggestion we can offer to relieve fear ties back to the fourth bullet point in the previous section—prepare questions in advance. Why is this important? Because it’s natural to feel more at ease when asking other people question. 

Give a quick introduction—which is something else you should have prepared—and then ask, “What brings you here?”  

That puts the focus on the other person, thereby helping you to ease yourself into the networking waters. Before you know it, the waters will feel just fine! 

Networking Tip #4—Spend Your Time Wisely 

There’s just no way around this: 

If you want to get the most out of a networking event, you need to be smart with how you spend your time. 

No matter your specific goals, you put yourself in the best position for success by meeting as many people as possible. This means there are a couple of situations you need to be ready to handle. 

In the first instance, you might find yourself caught up in a conversation with someone who is monopolizing your time. The problem here is that it’s taking away from your ability to connect with other people.  

To solve this problem, you can suggest getting together at a later date to continue the discussion on a deeper level. The great thing about this is approach is that it allows you to go back to mingling, yet while at the same time creating the possibility of a stronger connection when the two of you do reconnect. 

The second situation is when you find yourself talking with someone you’d rather not be spending time with (for whatever possible reason). Quite possibly, the appropriate way to handle this is doing anything you can to keep the discussion brief.  

It’s important to keep in mind that when you cut a conversation short, you still do so in a graceful manner. Even taking just a moment to make solid eye contact before departing the conversation can be beneficial in this regard. 

Networking Tip #5—After the Event

It can be fun and exciting to meet new people during the course of the event, but the journey doesn’t stop once it’s over. In fact, this is the time to forge stronger bonds!

At some point, you undoubtedly exchanged business cards or contact information with others. Once the event is over, a good idea is to follow the “3/6 rule” of networking. Basically, this means you should contact potential connections 3 times within a span of 6 weeks, and no more than that. 

In this day and age, one of those points of contacts should be a request to connect on LinkedIn. (We probably don’t have to tell you how huge social media is in our world…) 

Networking Tip #5—After the Event

At some point, you undoubtedly exchanged business cards or contact information with others. Once the event is over, a good idea is to follow the “3/6 rule” of networking. Basically, this means you should contact potential connections 3 times within a span of 6 weeks, and no more than that. 

In this day and age, one of those points of contacts should be a request to connect on LinkedIn. (We probably don’t have to tell you how huge social media is in our world…) 

Now That You’re Ready to Network Like a Pro…

As we mentioned earlier, our agency is hosting a free happy hour event on September 19. You might want to take advantage of the opportunity to try these tips and start honing your own networking chops. 

If you do, please feel free to simply stop by our office any time between 4-7 p.m. and connect with local professionals and business leaders.  

There’s no need to RSVP in advance, but if you RSVP on this page, you will receive an extra ticket for a complimentary drink, along with an extra ticket for the drawings we are holding that evening. 

We would love to see you there! 

If you have any questions regarding our agency or our open house, please feel free to contact us by calling (833) 622-0907. 

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