4 Ways To Ace Your Next Networking Event
Whether you’re starting your own business, searching for the perfect co-founder, transitioning to a new job—networking can be your life support. It can propel you to the next level professionally, while simultaneously enhancing different aspects of your personal life. Treat networking as if you were cooking your ideal “soup.” We need to incorporate a select set of ingredients that will give us that “wow” factor (taste). You want your soup to leave an impression—for all the right reasons. You want people to keep asking you for more soup! In networking to develop lasting relationships, it’s important to be genuine in all actions. You must listen, be patient, and understand the needs of others— while also understanding your own needs too.
Let’s Say –It’s the middle of the week and you just received an invite toanother networking event. You may scan your invite for the hosts, glance at the venue information, description, and check the winning statement— and say, “Is it worth it?”
Rule 1: Network with Purpose:
There are several networking events taking place each day. All networking functions come with a price, time. Your time is valuable. You have to assess key reasons as to why you need to be there. There should be a purpose. If you don’t have much time to give, you should never spread yourself too thin by going to the wrong places. You need to select appropriately:
- Industry: What industry is this function appealing to? Is this event known to provide a diverse set of professionals? What are your needs? Always ask yourself,“What are my needs?” If you’re in need of building a professional relationship with someone in public relations, you may invest your time to networking events provided by organizations like NYWICI, AWC, or The National Communication Association – rather than a function that appeals primarily to engineers seeking contracting work. Increase your chances.
- Cost: The more you spend does not always yield a positive correlation with the quality of your networking experience. Have you heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover? “ Well, don’t judge a networking function’s quality by its price only. (See testimonials tip below.)
- Testimonials: What’s the buzz? Successful networking functions usually like to highlight previous events through featured testimonials, reviews, or photos. A picture is worth a thousand words. In the age of social-media, you can usually find ways to track conversations about an event from a retweet, like, or yes—a hashtag.
- Substance: People often select networking socials based on its structure to determine if it aligns best to their professional or personal needs. Let’s revisit that question you should always ask yourself, “What are my needs?” Do you prefer a simple mix & mingle or one that highlights guest speakers to topics you care about? If you have a desire to sharpen certain skills, you may lean towards events that highlight expert speakers, panel discussions, or seminars that address your topics of concern.
Rule 2: Research: Be Informed
You’ve narrowed your choices of networking events to go to this month. Everything seems great. What do you do? You research. Strategic networking practices work best when you have a limited amount of time to make your mark—the best impression, which is often the case.
- Host/Sponsors: Who is hosting this event? Who are their sponsors? It’s always good to know their background information. You may pick up on similarities, which may lead to a great conversation. It starts with just by one conversation to lead to a valued business relationship. The hosts at events are usually busy, which is why the few moments you have with them should be meaningful. After all, they’re not just hosting the event for you. They have to cater to other guests too. Make your mark.
- Guest List: If you’re lucky, some events post the guest list of those attending their functions ahead of time. You can quickly see individuals who may be within or outside of your industry. You don’t need to memorize the entire list or where each person comes from. You can make a mental note of 3-5 persons who you definitely may want to speak to. Perhaps, the host assistant’s could connect you prior to or during the event to your guest of interest.
- Panel Discussion/ Guest Speakers/ Seminars: I truly enjoy networking events that include a panel discussion. It’s a huge bonus to receive a lesson, advice, or talk from an industry expert. Usually, the theme or topics are released to guests prior to the event.
>> [STAND OUT TIP]: Most panel discussions would have a moment to discuss the background of each highlighted panelist. Seize the moment. (If you genuinely want to know) Prepare a question to ask a panelist– related to their background. Is there something you always wanted to know? Now, may be your chance! Stand tall, introduce yourself, and ask your question. It takes courage to stand before a crowd. It will certainly leave a lasting impression, if you are confident and maintain good eye-contact.