Networking Event Tips: How To Prepare, Stand Out, And Follow-Up

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Going to a professional networking event can seem overwhelming and stressful, especially if you are new in your career or are introverted.

Fortunately, there are lots of great tips and strategies that you can use to make the process of networking more enjoyable and effective.

You never know when you will meet your next big client, strategic partner, or potential employer.

For this reason, you need to be on your game.

What many people don’t realize is that networking events are more than just introducing yourself to people and swapping business cards.

What you do before and after a networking event is just as important as what you do during it.

Here are some tips that have been proven to work for thousands of networking professionals.

So, if you’re ready to up your networking game and take your career or business to the next level, keep reading!

Before The Networking Event

Prepare Your Elevator Speech

When you meet new people, you only have a short amount of time to grab their attention.

In fact, studies have shown that you only have about 7 seconds until the other person forms their opinion of you.

Therefore, before you ever attend a networking event, it’s important to develop a plan for how you want to introduce yourself.

This doesn’t have to be cheesy or contrived.

Something as simple as, “Hi, I’m {your name}, what do you do for a living?” can be a great and easy way to spark up a conversation.

If you practice this over and over, you will be less likely to fumble on your words and appear more confident.

Update Your Online Networking Accounts

Most people use professional sites like LinkedIn to showcase their experience and career background.

After a networking event, you will likely see an uptick in the number of people who search for you in order to follow up or connect.

So, make sure you go through your account and make sure that everything is up to date.

You want them to see a well-polished view of you as a professional.

If you are representing your own company or business, you might even want to make some updates to your website to specifically target the audience from the event.

For example, if you are a graphic designer who went to a networking event for digital marketing, you might highlight a recent campaign front-and-center on your website.

In addition to updating your professional social media and websites, you should clean up or set your personal social media accounts to private.

The last thing that you want is to make a great connection with someone at the networking event, and then turn them off with some crazy photos from your last Vegas trip.

Do Your Research Ahead Of The Event

To get the most out of a networking event, you should do a little research ahead of time.

Look up the speakers and notable attendees that you know will be there. You might find some key people that are important for you to make a connection with.

One strategy is to send them a note ahead of time and let them know that you are looking forward to the event and hope they have a few minutes to chat.

This gives them a quick preview of who you are, and it won’t feel so awkward when you first introduce yourself.

You can also use your research time to find things that you have in common with the other person.

For example, maybe they went to the same university or they are fans of your favorite sports team.

In addition to interests, you might find that you have a mutual professional relationship.

Dress Appropriately

When attending a networking event, you want to make sure that you are dressed appropriately.

After all, you will be making a first impression on a lot of people in a relatively short amount of time.

In most cases, networking events require business attire. So you should plan to dress as if you are meeting a client for the first time or going to a job interview.

Some events require special clothing.

For example, if the networking event is a charity golf tournament, you don’t want to show up in a suit and tie.

When in doubt, contact the networking event host and ask about the dress code.

After all, they have the most at stake to ensure the event goes smoothly, and thus, don’t want the attendees dressed like slobs.

Don’t forget about finishing touches to make your appearance looked polished. Make sure that you have your clothes professionally cleaned or pressed.

A wrinkled blazer or pants covered in dog hair can completely ruin your look. You can also add statement pieces such as a nice necklace or eye-catching cufflinks.

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During The Networking Event

Have A Mission

Too many people make the mistake of trying to meet everyone at an event, which often yields poor results.

Instead, focus on quality over quantity.

It’s more powerful to have four or five meaningful conversations than to simply small talk and swap business cards with 100 people.

Make sure you have a clear mission in mind for what you want to accomplish on the evening of the event.

Maybe you want to connect with five potential employers.

Or perhaps you are looking to expand your manufacturing partner list.

Having a goal in mind will keep you focused on the task at hand.

Bring Business Cards

This may seem like a no-brainer, but people often forget to bring business cards with them to networking events.

Nowadays, this is especially true since we tend to rely on our phones.

We assume that we can simply take someone’s number and program it into our device.

But this isn’t speed dating.

Having a professional-looking business card is essential.

Put Away Distractions

When you get to the networking event, take a look around the room. You will likely see a handful of people standing on the sidelines fiddling with their phones.

How many productive connections do you think they will make? Probably very few.

Staring at your mobile device tells everyone around you that you are preoccupied with other things and it makes you look unapproachable.

Plain and simple, if you want to make meaningful business connections at a networking event, leave your phone in your pocket or purse and focus your attention on the people around you.

Break Away From Your Tribe

It is extremely likely that you will run into friends or coworkers at a networking event.

While it’s great to catch up with old contacts, make sure you aren’t giving them all your attention the entire event.

People tend to congregate with others they already know or are familiar with.

Remember that you are there to make new connections, so get out of your comfort zone.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Meeting new people can be awkward and uncomfortable once you get past the pleasantries and small talk.

This happens when the two people run out of things to say to each other.

A good strategy is to ask open-ended questions.

This helps keep the conversation going without long pauses.

Close-ended questions can typically be answered with a simple yes or no.

Open-ended questions, on the other hand, require a much longer and thoughtful answer.

Examples of open-ended questions to use:

  • What’s the most exciting thing about your role?
  • Where do you see the (industry name) industry going in the next 5 years?

Focus On The Other Person

You’re at the networking event to make connections that will bring you value.

The challenge is that a lot of people focus too much on this.

They immediately go to the sales pitch or try to quickly get something out of the other person without first building rapport.

But if you want to make the most of a networking event, you should take the exact opposite approach.

Make the conversation all about them.

You should be doing more listening than you are talking (this is where the open-ended questions come into play).

In fact, if you really want to make an impact, figure out how you can help them.

A simple and effective approach is to ask them what they are looking to get out of the event.

This will show them that they can trust you and they will be even more willing to reciprocate.

Know When To Wrap Up The Conversation

Have you ever had a conversation with someone from which you can’t wait to escape?

You don’t want to be THAT person at a networking event.

So, try to pay attention to the body language of each person you talk to, and don’t be afraid to cut a conversation short if you feel like they’re disengaged.

I’ll admit, being aware of how engaged the other person is during a conversation takes skill and practice.

If you get the slightest sense that they are ready to move on, let them.

Don’t try and corner them or bombard them with 20 more questions.

Look for signs like eyes breaking contact to look around the room or uncomfortable pauses.

You can even say something like “I’m sure there are lots of other people that you want to meet tonight, why don’t we circle back to this conversation after the event?”

Networking event tips: How to prepare, stand out, and follow-up like a pro! | Be The Budget

After The Event

Follow Up

If you make a connection with someone, you need to make sure that you follow up shortly after the event to continue the relationship.

A good rule of thumb is to follow up within 24 hours.

A great way to follow up with people is to highlight something that you talked about and provide them with something of value or interest.

For example, drop them an email with an article that you read that pertains to something they told you at the networking event.

Make sure the follow-up is personal and not a generic thank you note.

Make them feel that you went out of your way to contact them.

Follow Through With Any Promises

If you told someone that you would get back to them on something or that you promised to introduce them to a colleague, do it!

A broken promise will immediately kill the relationship.

By following through, it shows that you will keep your word and they can rely on you.

Connect Them With Someone In Your Network

A great way to provide value is to introduce your new connection to someone that you think could help them.

For example, if your contact told you that they would like to redesign their website, you might connect them with someone in your network that you know does excellent web design.

Figure Out Next Steps

Don’t let a good connection go to waste.

Make sure you have a clear understanding of what the next steps are in the relationship.

This could be anything from scheduling a face-to-face meeting to checking in later in the year.

Practice Makes Perfect With Networking

Attending networking events is one thing.

Being good at them is another story.

The good news is that you will improve over time.

Every networking event and industry has different rules, personality types, and social norms. So it may take a little while to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Also, don’t be afraid to try out different things.

Bottom Line

Going to a networking event can be stressful enough. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

You’re going to make mistakes along the way.

Just try to have fun with it and try to get a little better with each event you attend.

Over time, your confidence will grow, and your ability to strike up conversations and make meaningful business connections will improve.

All you have to do is get out there and start networking!

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About The Author

About The Author

Zach Buchenau is a self-proclaimed personal finance nerd. When he isn't writing about budgeting, getting out of debt, making extra money, and living a frugal life, you can find him building furniture, fly fishing, or developing websites. He is the co-founder of BeTheBudget, and Chipotle's most loyal customer.

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