By Jennifer Dunn for Brazen Careerist
Have you ever had one of those terrible networking event experiences? You know the ones—where you sit in the corner the whole time because nobody is interested in talking. Or perhaps you strolled in and suddenly realized everyone was more prepared than you. You didn’t even bring business cards!
Networking events can be great experiences if you approach them correctly; otherwise, they can be the stuff of nightmares. If you implement the following tips, you can help ensure that everything goes smoothly. In fact, you could expand your business in ways you never imagined. It’s all about being prepared.
Before you go
No matter how many members of your team are going, it always helps to get everyone on the same page. While you may not all be doing the same thing or talking to the same people, you want to make sure you have a common goal and ultimate prize in mind.
That’s why it helps to know beforehand who will be at the event and what you want to get out of it. It’s not that you’ll know every single member of the crowd, of course; it simply means you want to tailor your message and conversations to your fellow attendees.
For example, if you want to expand your offering to restaurant owners, you wouldn’t go in looking to talk to all the real estate agents you can corner. Not that you want to exclude anyone, but keep your eyes on the prize. You have limited time, so be sure to speak with the people who can help you achieve your goals.
While you’re there
You’ve done your research so you know what you want out of the event. Now it’s time to put your preparation to work!
Arrive early at the event. You’ll have more quality time to meet and mingle, and people won’t be broken up into intimidating cliques yet.
Once you arrive, you may think you should just jump into the first group you see. However, it’s a better idea to canvas the place so you know who is there. For one, you’ll notice the various personalities in attendance: the quiet loner, the loud braggart, the “Hi, here’s my card—see ya!”, the social butterfly and so on. Knowing who is there can help you figure out which folks to approach first.
Another plus to canvassing is that you may run into a familiar face. While there’s really no point in hanging out with a bunch of people you already know, they may be able to introduce you to some new contacts. They may even know what your goals are and have ideas to set you on the right path.
Don’t skip out on talking to the quiet loner types, either. We’ve all been that person at some point, and you remember how frustrating it can be. They may have a wealth of information, yet no one is talking to them.
After the event
Now it’s time for the follow-up. This can be a little tricky. Everyone you talked to knows you were there for business purposes, but they also don’t want to feel like a number in a crowd.
So you have to figure out how to make everyone you follow up with feel like they’re the only person you’ve contacted after the fact. We’ve all been part of that post-event “cattle call,” and it never goes well. Did you ever contact any of those people back? If you did, did anything come of it?
During the conversation at the event, you likely talked about some other interests. It could’ve been about something you both mutually love, like a sport, or pet theories you have about business philosophy. Whatever it is, make it part of your follow-up conversation.
This way, a friendly conversation about the World Cup and business ethics also serves the purpose of moving your business forward. Plus, you may have made a long-term business contact instead of one you talk to once or twice and then ditch.