Episode #18: How to Network Successfully at an Event

change your mindset Jul 02, 2020

Networking. It’s something every business owner knows they should do, but it’s often something entrepreneurs don’t necessarily want to do—usually because they’re unsure of what to do and how to start. This is how Oie felt during a recent virtual networking event, so she turned to Darren for some advice. These tips and tricks come from a seasoned networker, so you can’t go wrong with following them! 

We’ll talk about what to do before, during, and after a networking event to make the most of your experience and make connections that will help grow your business.

Before the Networking Event

Networking doesn’t start when the event begins. Preparing yourself both mentally and physically ahead of time will help you avoid the mistake of treating it like a social event and make the most of the opportunities available to you. Here are three key things to do:

Set a Goal

Think about what you want to accomplish at the event and set a clear goal for yourself. This helps you know exactly what you should be doing while you’re there, instead of wondering what to do next. Here are a few ideas for networking goals:

  • Introduce yourself to five new people
  • Ask a current contact for an introduction to someone you’ve been hoping to meet
  • Find a referral partner
  • Make a connection to a specific business or industry 

Only set one goal at a time to avoid overwhelming yourself. It’s okay to start with a smaller goal as you get comfortable networking!

Bring Business Cards

This is an absolute must! Business cards help you keep track of who you’ve talked to and are the easiest way to hand out (and receive) contact information. If you don’t have any, it’s relatively easy and affordable to get some made. We are picky about our business cards, and prefer to have thick, quality material and something unique to make them stand out. 

If you’re attending a virtual networking event, be sure your LinkedIn profile, business Facebook page, and website are up-to-date and working properly so you can send your new contacts directly to one of those places.

Dress Appropriately for Your Industry

Different industries have different standards of formality, so be sure you know what’s typical for your industry and dress accordingly. Most networking events will have a business casual dress code, but pay attention to if you need to dress more (or less) formally so you’re aligned with the overall vibe of the event.

As You Arrive At the Event

Just as you arrive at the event, there are a few last-minute things to do to make sure you’re in the right mindset for successful networking. 

  • Get there early. Arrive a few minutes before the event starts and introduce yourself to the organizers. They’re likely to know a lot of people and may be able to help you make connections.
  • Have your business cards handy. Don’t go fumbling through your pockets or sorting through a stack of cards to find your own. Keep your business cards in one pocket and those of your new contacts in another.
  • Don’t stand by the entrance. This might sound like a good place to encounter every attendee, but most people will look past people at the entrance to scan the room as they arrive. Try standing in a high traffic area like the path away from the bar.
  • Spark conversation as you wait in line. This is a perfect opportunity to chat with new connections. Leaving the line gives you an easy out if there’s not a good connection.
  • Be personable. Networking events are business events, but ultimately you’re building relationships. People want to refer to people that they like.
  • Don’t try to meet everyone. You want to make meaningful connections, not just connections. Aim for quality over quantity, and avoid “working the room” for the sake of collecting business cards.

During the Networking Event

It’s showtime! During the event, you want to make as many meaningful connections as possible. This doesn’t just include connections that exclusively benefit you—if you’re able to make introductions that help other people, that makes it easier for others to help you too. 

These tips will help you overcome the awkwardness that can come with networking and make strong connections to help grow your business.

Always Introduce Yourself By First & Last Name

Start with a firm handshake, eye contact, and lean in slightly to show that you’re listening. Ask them what they do or why they’re at the event, but try to be as natural and conversational as possible. Here are a few good starter questions:

  • What brings you here today?
  • How did you get connected to this group/event?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What do you do for a living?

Ask How You Can Help

Once you’ve heard about what your new acquaintance does, ask them what specific help or connections they’re looking for. Pay close attention and take notes so you can connect them to people you know, whether it’s now or in the future when you have a few more networking contacts. If you have specific advice or guidance, offer it. 

Asking these questions and offering help or guidance not only helps create meaningful connections, but also sets the stage for them to ask you the same questions and offer their knowledge or connections.

Have an Elevator Speech

You should be able to describe your business in two to three sentences in an interesting and compelling way. Don’t just name your job title and company, but give details about what you specialize in. This makes you more memorable and provides extra context so people can give you more specific help and introduce you to the most important people. 

Additionally, it’s important to know exactly what kind of help or introductions you’re looking for so you have an answer ready when someone asks how they can help you. This should be tied back to the goal you set before the event.

Set Up Further Conversations Outside the Event

There’s only so much talking you can do at a busy networking event. Try to set up coffee meetings or phone calls for later on when you can spend more time and attention on building those relationships. Remember, people tend to only refer people they know and trust, so anything you can do to build real relationships helps obtain future referrals.

After the Networking Event

When the event is over, it’s up to you to continue to cultivate these relationships. Here are three key steps you can take to make sure you make the most of your networking efforts: 

  • Take notes on your conversations. Jot down important pieces of information on the back of business cards in-between conversations, and then record all this information in your CRM system or a spreadsheet when you get back to your office. Remembering personal details is just as important as business ones!
  • Follow up. Send emails or make phone calls to your new connections, especially if you are able to offer them help or guidance in some way.
  • Track your time and effort. Record the time you spent networking, along with how many connections you made and referrals you received so you can determine if networking is a good use of your time. If you can, try to determine how much revenue you generated as a result to best measure your efforts.

Listen to Episode #18 Now!

As you attend more networking events and practice the tips we’ve listed here, networking will become easier and easier. You’ll have more connections and be able to provide more help to others, and in turn, they’ll find you a helpful and valuable resource and offer any assistance they can. Here are the most important things to do at a networking event: 

  • Go in with a goal and plan.
  • Bring your business cards (and make sure they’re easily accessible!).
  • Introduce yourself to the event organizers—they’ll help you make good connections.
  • Focus on a few quality connections rather than a ton of shallow ones.
  • Initiate the conversation and ask how you can help. Keep it personal!
  • Practice your compelling elevator speech and have it ready.
  • Take notes about who you met, send follow up emails, and set up one-on-one meetings to keep building relationships.

We hope you found this networking guide useful and that you’ll find networking success by practicing these techniques. To further help you, we’ve also created a networking event checklist as a guide for planning for your next event. You can find it below.

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