How does one prepare for a networking event? Be sure you have all 5 of the following networking tools.

A purpose and an open mind

Your results will improve if you decide in advance exactly what you want to gain from an event. Find who will be there. Do you want to meet three new people? All are possible if you keep in mind why you’re there. With that said, be sure to remain open to the unexpected and give yourself permission to take another path when it presents itself!

A pitch you know by heart

Especially if you are any of these two kinds of people: 1) a forgetful one, or 2) someone who has the tendency to blab on and on until you run out of time, or the person you’re speaking with gets bored – then you know you must have a standard, well-internalised pitch. It’s like having a purpose, and a short but concise dialogue about who you are what you do, and how you can help. This way, even if your target connections don’t have much time, you know you can be confident you get your message across, and that you did not make a fool out of yourself. Be ready to improvise as the need arises though. You don’t have to sound like a robot with a memorized speech.

A mind full of relevant knowledge

Relationships are best built by offering information, ideas, resources, advice, support, and connections without any expectation of a return. Those who give freely are much more apt to get results than those who are stingy and withhold information and ideas. You will come to be known as a “go-to” person and your network will grow dramatically. Those who attach strings to their help won’t be sought after for long.

A mental list (or even digital) of referrals – in case you encounter someone you know you can’t help

Let’s face it – no one is the answer to every need – not even you. No matter how much you desire to be a jack of all trades, you can never be. But you can arm yourself with an endearing networking trait – which is helpfulness. Remember that those whom you have referred will most likely find out that you have dropped a good word about them to a potential client. When you establish this type of goodwill, you are setting the cornerstone for reciprocal referrals, which is always karma’s excellent way of reminding you that you will be rewarded for any form of kindness you extend to others. As your good reputation grows, other people will help you, and you will reach your goals, helped sometimes only indirectly by those you’ve helped in the past.

A formal business card

Formal, not meaning prudish or corny. Formal in the sense that it will be taken seriously. No fancy fuschia or psychedelic-coloured business cards please – leave that to circus people searching for new contacts. Make sure your name, your business name, contact numbers, business address, and maybe a good business card icon. Some people print their pictures on the back of their cards so that people they meet will remember their faces and associate them with the business they represent.

What really is an effective card good for? It is actually a tangible reminder of someone one has met. Months after a networking event, numbers may have been forgotten, faces blurry in one’s mind – but a business card will remind people of who you represent.