So you've finally decided to attend a networking event. Your business cards are ready and you've practiced your elevator pitch but have you thought about how you'll actuallywork the event? Here are some tips on how to make a networking event work for you:
Dress To Impress
It goes without saying that you should look your best when you're networking. Be sure to dress professionally, yet not over-the-top. you'll want to look professional, yet approachable. Go for an outfit that makes you look polished and feel comfortable. If you're tugging on your dress or fixing your straps all evening, it'll be weird.
Do Your Homework
Find out what people, specifically what "movers and shakers", will be there. There's a good chance that someone you'd want to connect with after the meeting will be attending as well so do your research on them. Find them on LinkedIn or other social media. Maybe they've been recently promoted or been mentioned in the media. Congratulating them on a recent accomplishment will put you in the know. Remember, flattery will take you places.
If you know who will be in attendance at your networking event, choose 3-5 people you'd like to connect with and work on speaking with them at the event.
In the business world we're constantly being told to sell ourselves but it's just as important to listen to others and show genuine interest in what they're saying. It's common for people to nod in agreement, feign a fake smile and walk away. Stand out at a networking event by paying attention to what others are saying as much as you're talking and selling yourself. Find a common ground and take it from there.
Bring a Friend
Networking events can be intimidating but there's no rule (for the most part) that you can't bring a friend. Invite a friend who would act as a good "wingman" and buffer if you get a little nervous. You'll automatically come across as social and personable.
Networking events don't have to be stiff. Many times, people at these events come across awkward and uncomfortable. Be the one who stands out by lightening the mood and enjoying yourself.
Be sure to reach out to the people who you really want to make a connection with. Follow them on social media, give them a call and schedule a coffee date for the near future. People attend networking events all the time, but by taking the time to follow-up with some action, your new connections will know to take you seriously.