Whether you’re looking for a new job, or seeking business opportunities, networking events are a great way to create contacts in the industry. There’s no use in attending an event if all you do is spend your time checking out the array of refreshments on offer, without actually speaking to anyone. In order to make it worth your time, you have to focus on making a great first impression that people will remember you for.
So how can you go about making a good impression that will stick in people’s minds?
1) Do your research
It’s always a good idea to do a bit of research ahead of an event, so that you can build an idea of who you would like to hear speak and anyone in particular you would be interested in introducing yourself to. An itinerary will usually be issued ahead of time, so you can make a plan before attending.
You can often get a rough idea about who will also be attending by checking out the Facebook event page if there is one, or by conducting a search across social media to see who has been talking about it. Once you have made a list of a few individuals you would most like to meet, you will know who to keep an eye out for on the day.
2) Have business cards at the ready
If you don’t already have business cards, get some made up. It will come across as far more professional if you can offer people you meet a card with your details listed, rather than scrabbling about trying to write them down on a piece of paper or tapping away at your phone in a frenzy. Make sure that you have enough with you to last the day and exchange cards with anyone that you would be interested in maintaining contact with. A business card will also work as a little reminder that they have met you after the event.
3) Prepare an elevator pitch
When you meet people at a networking event, they’re going to want to hear who you are and what you do in a nutshell. To make sure that you introduce yourself properly, come up with a short elevator pitch including all the most important information about yourself that you can tell people upon meeting them.
4) Present yourself smartly
Though people say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, in a professional setting the way that somebody chooses to present themselves can tell a lot about their attitude. This doesn’t just refer to your outfit, but also your personal grooming and hygiene. If a dress code has been stated, it’s important that you adhere to it. If not, think about what type of event it is, the nature of your industry and what you think that your clients would expect you to wear. If in doubt, it’s better to show up slightly over dressed than looking scruffy.
5) Be aware of your body language
Networking events can be a daunting experience and it’s natural to feel a bit nervous, but try your best to conceal any discomfort. Crossed arms can come across as a bit back offish; whereas an open stance and good posture can automatically give you an air of confidence and make you more approachable. Smiling and making eye contact with people around the room will also work wonders!
6) Show interest in people
Nobody wants to have a conversation with someone who is just going to go on and on about themselves for the entire time. Be a good listener and ask them thoughtful questions that will get them speaking. Once you get someone chatting about a topic they are really passionate about, they will light up! You don’t need to keep conversation strictly about business, as connecting with somebody on a more personal level is often what will make them remember you.
7) Give them a reason to remember you
People will meet dozens of others at networking events, so it’s your job to differentiate yourself from the others. Clearly define what it is that you do best and be enthusiastic when talking about your work, as people want to work with individuals who are passionate about what they do. Ask what you can do for them, as they are likely to remember you after the event if you can benefit them in some way.
8) Follow up
Within a couple of days of meeting them, connect with everyone you met on LinkedIn and send them a quick note via email or LinkedIn to let them know what a pleasure it was to meet them. If you said you’d do something for them make sure you stick to your word and act on it before you forget.
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