Networking events, you either enjoy them or you don’t either way, they’re a necessary part of life as a business professional. They let you meet like-minded individuals and make important business connections; they may even net you a much-needed job or contract.
Despite the potential benefits of networking, few of us plan ahead and think about how to make the most of the opportunity. But there are at least 10 strategies that successful networkers can use to connect and impress at business events.
Research key attendees before the event
If there are individuals you’re hoping to meet (and impress) at your next event, do some pre-meeting research online. Scope out these individuals’ LinkedIn profiles to learn the basics about them and look for common connections.
People tend to gravitate toward those with whom they share similarities. This is known as the similarity attraction effect. When meeting others with shared traits or experiences, be sure to point out the similarities you have to increase perceived social compatibility.
Be a connector
Instead of focusing only on making your own connections, make an effort to connect others. When speaking with someone, think about whether there’s someone else at the event who could help (or be helped) by this person, and then make an introduction. Be a connector, yourself.
Have a purpose
People use networking events for a myriad of reasons, including finding a job, meeting potential clients or just socializing. Before you arrive at an event, ask yourself what you’re hoping to achieve and what you need to do to achieve it.
Don’t be a product-pusher
Nobody likes that someone who attends events to push products on to people. Networking events may result in leads, but should never be used as a way to directly sell or promote your products.
Networking events can be awkward. Particularly if you’re an introvert, starting conversations may not come naturally. Vow to overcome your natural temptation to blend into the woodwork, and make a point of introducing yourself to at least five people.
Do not, under any circumstances, ditch a conversation partner for someone more “important”
There is a temptation to weasel your way out of a dead-end conversation in order to talk with that CEO who just walked into the room. And while there’s nothing wrong with subtly steering a conversation to a close, abruptly ending it to speak with someone “better” is a definite networking faux pas
Follow up within 48 hours
If you’ve promised to send information or connect with someone, a good rule of thumb is to do it within 72 hours after the event. Waiting any longer may unintentionally convey disinterest.
Focus on quality, not quantity
Spending time engaging in meaningful conversations with a few people is often better than floating around the room engaging in short, superficial conversations. Aim to make real connections by asking questions, listening intently and moving beyond small talk, where appropriate.
Prepare your elevator pitch
There’s nothing worse than being asked the question, “What do you do?” and suddenly coming up blank. The idea of a traditional elevator pitch is a bit outdated, but the underlying strategy is still a good one: Come up with a few sentences you can use to accurately describe yourself or your business.
Being an effective networker means going into events with purpose and a plan. It also means being 100 percent committed to connecting authentically with those around you. It’s not exactly rocket science, but a little bit of preparation before your next networking event could be what sets you apart from the pack.