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 youÂre 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 ÂprofitÂ 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. ItÂs one thing to sign up for an event and hope for the best. ItÂs 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 Âwhat do I/we want out of this event?Â In other words, instead of blindly going in with the attitude youÂll just see what happens and come what may, itÂs better to have a focus. YouÂre much less likely to come away empty handed this way.
Be as specific as you want with your goals. DonÂt just say ÂI want to talk to five good contacts,Â make the goal ÂI want to make five new contacts that can help me spread my business to the Northwest region of the state.Â
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, youÂll have an immediate opening since youÂre ÂMary-who-emailed-you-last-week.Â
During the Trip
While youÂre actually at the networking event you want to cover the most ground possible. If youÂre by yourself or the room is huge, this may not exactly be easy. This can be especially true if itÂs one of those ÂcliqueyÂ networking events Â you know the type. It can be tough to break into a group thatÂs already established itself.
However, if you know what youÂre there for, this becomes much easier. In fact, if youÂve 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 Â the movers and shakers arenÂt 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. YouÂll be able to talk to more people, and itÂs 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.
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?