Attending a networking event can be a waste of time or a valuable investment in building your personal brand or business.
Three pre-event strategies to increase your networking ROI (return on investment):
1. Set specific outcome goals.
You are more likely to maximize your time when you plan for your outcomes in advance.
- Who do you want to meet?
Are there any key people attending the event who you would like to meet? Not sure who's attending? A quick glance at the attendance list or review of name tags can sometimes make targeting who to meet a last-minute edited decision.
- How many new people will you meet?
Every time you invest in attending a networking event, make it a point to meet at least two or three new people. You need to regularly add new people to your network if you want to grow.
- Who do you want to catch up with?
Networking events are great places to catch up with people you have met before and to help you get to know each other better. When people know what you do and trust you they are more likely to pass referrals to you.
- What do you want to learn?
Networking events are great places to pick up information. What's challenging you currently? Do you need the name of a good printer? Are you looking for a new way to reach people?
Take advantage of being in a room full of people who may be able to refer you the solution you need.
2. Prepare yourself for conversation.
- Review notes of previous events.
If you've attending events with this organization before, take a quick scan of the business cards you collected and the notes you made. Refresh your memory and amaze people with what you know about them.
- Know what's going on in the world.
As an active networker, you'll want to find some news sources and pay regular attention to it. This will help make you more interesting to talk to — and boost your confidence.
- Check your attitude and energy.
If you are grumpy and tired, your networking results will reflect it.
Sometimes simply jogging in place or swinging your arms around can give you an energy boost.
Be careful about eating carbohydrate-heavy meals before attending these events to help ward off the tiredness.
If you're in a bad mood, do what you need to do to let it go of it — at least for the time you're at the event.
If it's a really bad day, would your time be better spent taking care of the problem — or perhaps simply going home? While you don't want to make a regular habit about skipping networking events, sometimes the best thing you can do is take the time off and take care of yourself.
3. Make sure you have your business cards with you.
This is should be an obvious point. Yet, I'm regularly amazed at the number of people who show up at networking events with no business cards available.
Having no cards makes you look like you are an unprepared person who doesn't monitor details — not a good image for your building brand or business!
Find a place to keep a stash of cards as a back up just in case you do forget. The glove compartment of your car may be a good place for this.
Good luck and happy networking!