How to prepare for a networking event isn’t one size fits all. I have one networking event, two meetings with networking opportunities, and a virtual conference all scheduled. Sound familiar? If so, are you ready to get the most out of your networking opportunities? If you hesitated one millisecond with your answer—you might not be as ready as you believe. But I have good news; it’s not all that complicated or time consuming to get ready, and it can be fun.
How to Prepare for a Networking Event
Preparation begins by asking yourself a few easy questions—who, what, when, where, why, and how.
What and where – What do you hope to gain? Are you seeking a new position, business connection, client, or vendor? Know your priorities before the event. What do you need and where do you need help?
Who can you help? Who can you help and how can you help them? Are there people attending who you could connect? Will one of your customers be there and can you send prospects to them? Is there a way you can help that has little to do with your business but would be impactful?
Who can help you? – Who can help you and how can they help? Review the attendee’s list to determine who can offer assistance and who could introduce you to those who can.
When will you network? – Will there be time to network, before, during, or after the event? Should you arrive early because an influential presenter may be available? Have you thought about who you’d like to sit with? Are you prepared to introduce yourself and offer a compelling reason to set a meeting? Why should anyone help you—what’s in it for them?
How will you follow up? – Decide how you will follow up with connections—don’t leave it to chance. If you know who you want to meet and what you hope to gain then complete the process with a follow up plan. Are you ready to meet your next big client? If so, offer to take them to dinner. Did you connect with someone who works where you’d like to work? Set up a visit. Be prepared to send information, meet for coffee, or set a time to give a presentation.
What else should you consider?
Now that you understand what you want and who can help you achieve it, you need to be sure you have the means. Here’s a short checklist of the tools you need to meet your networking goals. It’s not difficult so don’t overthink it.
_______ Business cards – bring more than you need then put a few more in your bag.
_______ Apparel – be yourself but dress for the occasion and a little more, but don’t overdo it. Don’t wear a tux to a tweet-up.
_______ Attendee list – note who you want to meet. There’s no need to memorize the list; take it with you and use it to avoid missing someone.
______ Elevator pitch – have your pitch or pitches prepared—30 seconds and 30 words geared toward attracting others to continue the conversation.
______ Resume – if you’re in the job market shouldn’t you have copies of your resume?
______ Collateral material – I wouldn’t willy-nilly hand out brochures and product information, but I’d want it available to clarify a point or strengthen a connection.
Once you know what you want and who can help there’s not much to it. With a little foresight, planning, and the proper tools at your disposal you can become a networking superhero. I have a fun question for you. Of the tools listed above, what have you forgot to bring to a networking event? I once attended a Chamber of Commerce networking event and didn’t have a single card on me. Not one. Ouch.
How Can I Help?
I’d always considered myself an effective networker. I’m friendly, easy to talk to, and I’ve never met a stranger. However, none of that makes me a good networker – it makes me outgoing. If I wanted to be the most effective networker I could be, I needed a plan. That’s how my networking workbook, Help Networking started.
I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me.
Does your business have a management training plan? Many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.