What usually comes to mind when you hear “networking event”? I bet you just cringed and rolled your eyes. I know, I know, the majority of people shutter and shy away at the thought of being stuck in a room full of people they don’t know. However, networking doesn’t have to be a horrible experience, you just need to change your mindset and be prepared before attending the event.
I attended my first networking event in NYC a few weeks ago and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect as I’m now working on identifying companies to help find talent for! For me, the purpose of this event was to get the Clarity name out there and introduce both myself and the company and what we can offer to potential clients and candidates. I needed to remind myself to be open minded; if you attend a networking event and don’t meet potential clients or candidates, at least you were able to meet new people who may be able to connect you to potential clients or candidates. That is the power of networking!
The networking event I attended was “Speed Networking.” I liked the format because it forced you to speak to every person in the room in 10-minute intervals. You were given 5 minutes to tell them what you do and who you work for and vice versa! It was a great way to really connect with the other individual and get a better understanding of what it is they do.
Below are some tips on how to prepare and make networking events worthwhile:
1. Be yourself
I can’t emphasize the importance of this! Sometimes people will attend networking events and put on a show and be a real salesperson. Unfortunately, this does not come across as being genuine and people will not want to connect with you, both on a professional and personal level. So just be yourself and let the conversation flow.
2. Dress professionally
Even if your work environment allows a business casual dress code, I would dress professionally for a networking event. First impressions last and you definitely want to look pulled together if you are meeting potential business partners. You want to put your best foot forward and be a great representation of your company.
3. Bring business cards
This might be a very obvious tip prior to attending a networking event, but I met quite a few people at the speed networking event who did not bring a business card and asked to write their details on the back of mine. Always carry a few business cards with you no matter where you go, you never know who you may meet.
4. Prepare your elevator pitch
You want to sound prepared and knowledgeable about your business, while not sounding too rehearsed. Before the event, do a bit of research on the attendees to know how to tailor your pitch accordingly and practice it a few times. You shouldn’t exceed more than 2 minutes; even after about 30 seconds you may lose your audience.
5. Always send a follow up email the next day
Follow up with the people you meet at the networking event the next day because you want them to remember you! As mentioned previously, be open minded. Even if the people you met aren’t a fit for your business, you never know who they can introduce you to.
Attending networking events doesn’t have to be a chore. Just be prepared, open minded, and attend them whenever you can. Practice makes perfect!