How to Maximize Your Time at Networking Events

By Jennifer Escalona Dunn

Networking events such as conferences and local business gatherings can often go from successful to stressful in a short period of time. You think you’re ready to tackle the evening, even arriving extra early to maximize your time, but in the end you leave empty handed, having only met a handful of people. Worse, nobody can really help you in any way.

Like everything else in business, it helps to have a plan. Use these tips to “profit” from your next networking trip.

Before the Trip

Having a successful trip to a networking event may depend on what you do before you even step through the door. It’s one thing to sign up for an event and hope for the best. It’s another thing entirely to have a battle plan at the ready in order to make the most out of the trip.

The first question you should ask yourself and any team members accompanying you is “what do I/we want out of this event?” In other words, instead of blindly going in with the attitude you’ll just see what happens and come what may, it’s better to have a focus. You’re much less likely to come away empty handed this way.

Be as specific as you want with your goals. Don’t just say “I want to talk to five good contacts,” make the goal “I want to make five new contacts that can help me spread my business to the Northwest region of the state.”

You should also contact the speakers beforehand. And if the event posts a pubic guest list, go ahead and look up the other attendees online. This way, instead of walking into a room full of strangers, you’ll have an immediate opening since you’re “Mary-who-emailed-you-last-week.”

During the Trip

While you’re actually at the networking event you want to cover the most ground possible. If you’re by yourself or the room is huge, this may not exactly be easy. This can be especially true if it’s one of those “cliquey” networking events – you know the type. It can be tough to break into a group that’s already established itself.

However, if you know what you’re there for, this becomes much easier. In fact, if you’ve really done your homework, you may already know who exactly you want to network with. Not everyone is great at these networking events and may hang back – the movers and shakers aren’t always in the big crowds, in other words.

Most of all, act interested in what they want to talk about. You can always pitch them ideas later when you have their email or Facebook page. Talking about something they like will get you in the door much quicker than berating them with business ideas.

Pro Networking Tip: Arrive early. You’ll be able to talk to more people, and it’s a lot easier to talk to the first few go-getters than it is to walk into a big crowd and break into an existing conversation.

Follow Up

Now is when all your hard work starts to pay off. You knew how to work the room, you knew who to talk to, and you made sure to have a pleasant conversation. Now all you have to do is work the follow up.

Of course make sure your message includes something regarding your conversation you had at the event. For instance, if you had a conversation about the best kind of golf clubs, mention you saw their favorite brand at the store the other day on sale. This can be the lead in you need for the rest of the conversation. From there, find your new connections on LinkedIn and then keep up with their news.

Pro Tip: People never forget the person who has done something for them. If you just bought a house and met someone who mentioned looking for a good real estate agent, make that connection. There will always be time later for your own business interests.

One a scale of 1 to 10, how much good did you get out of your last networking event? Why?

Author’s Bio: Jennifer Escalona Dunn is the owner of Social Street Media where she writes about small business, tech and finance for sites like WePay and Outright. You can find her on Twitter @jennescalona.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *