Although the following tips are written for any events occurring during the year, they are certainly applicable to the myriad occasions throughout the Holiday Season. Events, whether they be social or professional can be great networking venues. Here are some tips for capturing full value from them.
Establish goals for your networking at the event. They can include connecting with specific individuals you know will be there i.e. announced speakers or panelists or people in a specific industry or company. Setting a target of meeting 15 new people will ensure that you are actively networking throughout the event.
2.Identify Networking Targets
Try to identify in advance, individuals you want to meet at the event. If it is a conference review the agenda to identify speakers, presenters and panelists with whom you would like to connect. If it is a trade show, review who has a booth. Contact the convener/sponsor to get a list of attendees. Email the people you want to meet, introduce yourself and tell them that you would like to have a conversation with them at the event. Suggest a meeting at one of the coffee breaks or networking sessions. If you cannot get a list of attendees before hand, ask at the registration desk, if someone from a specific company is attending and ask for their name. As you speak with people ask them if they have met anyone at the event in a particular industry and/or company.
At the event itself challenge yourself to meet people who might be a stretch for you. Don’t focus exclusively on your peer group – reach out to older generations. It is likely that many of the people at the event are in “job search” mode. Talking to other recent grads looking for jobs may be fairly easy to do but not all that productive. Even if older attendees are looking for jobs they have worked somewhere and could be helpful.
3.Dress for the Occasion
As Oscar Wilde said “You can never be overdressed or overeducated”. Wear a suit.
4.Watch your body language.
Research indicates that within 7 seconds we have made an impression with people we meet and that those first impressions are hard to undo. Your body language gives off strong signals, so make sure these, are geared towards creating a positive impression. Shoulders back, head up, smile and a firm handshake. Work on a “at ease” stance – feet shoulder width part, hands at your sides and unclenched. Men – do not play with the change in your pocked. Women – use a purse with a shoulder strap so that both of your hands are free.
Put your name tag on your right side so that when you shake hands your name can clearly be seen. If you get to make your own name tag put your company on the name tag or your university if you are not currently working. Scan others’ name tags for your target organizations or fellow alumni with whom you can connect.
It should go without saying that you should bring a supply of your business cards. Get a card holder, take it out and give the other person a card from the holder not from you pocket. Be prepared to write down someone’s contact information if they do not have a card. Have a pen and something to write on (could be the back of your card). When someone hands you a business card – take a moment to read the card and put it in your card holder – don’t stuff it in your pocket.
Prepare and practice how to introduce yourself– keep it to 30 to 45 seconds. Clearly state your name, your university and degree and your current or former employer if you had one. If you have recently done something interesting and relevant say what it is. Indicate that you are “exploring careers in X” and hoping to connect with people in the sector.
Do not hesitate to approach a group of people engaged in a conversation. Physically join the group and wait for a pause in the conversation and introduce yourself. Participate in the conversation if appropriate. Make note of anyone in the group with whom you would like to have an individual conversation and approach them when they are alone.
If you see individuals standing alone looking lost approach them, smile, make eye contact, introduce yourself and shake hands firmly. Ask them about themselves, where they went to university, where they work etc. Ask them how you can be helpful to them.
Ask lots of questions, and actively listen to the replies. Use what they tell you as the foundation for further questions to extend and deepen the conversation.
When you have captured all you can from the interaction you need to disengage yourself. If there is actually someone else you want to talk to say so. If not, simply say that you do not want to monopolize them and thank them for taking the time to speak with you, tell them that you enjoyed the conversation and that you hope they enjoy the event.
Within 24 hours send an email to everyone you met at the event. Thank each for taking the time to speak with you and tell them you enjoyed the conversation. If you had targeted a speaker, panelist or presenter at a conference and were not able to connect with them send them an email saying so. Invite them to connect directly on LinkedIn – personalize the invitation by referencing meeting at the event. You could start a LinkedIn Group for the event and invite members.