Love it or hate it, networking is a big part of the association industry. But despite all of the potential benefits of networking, many of us often fail to plan ahead and really capitalize on the opportunity.
We WANT to see you succeed, so to help you connect and impress, we’ve put together eight ways to totally kill at your next networking event. Take a look!
1. Have a purpose
Prior to your next event, think about what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Are you trying to spread awareness about your organization’s mission? Are you trying to find an industry leader to become your next mentor? Having a clear goal in mind will make networking less ambiguous and lead to more effective conversations.
2. Leverage social media
Social media is a powerful networking tool. Before heading off to your next event, see what’s taking place online. Check out the event’s Facebook page and/or LinkedIn group and make a list of all the people you’d like to connect with in person. Then, head on over to Twitter and check out the event’s hashtag (if there is one). This is a great way to see what other people are talking about and who else might be attending. And don’t be afraid to reach out to some of these people in advance. Let them know you’re excited about meeting them! Making these connections early on can really help ease your networking nerves.
3. Prepare your materials
In addition to having plenty of business cards, you’ll want to have a well-formulated elevator pitch as well. After all, there’s nothing worse than being asked “What do you do?” and coming up blank. Now don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be anything long (and in fact, it shouldn’t be). Just put together one or two sentences that accurately describe what you and your organization do, and voilà, you’re all set!
4. Introduce yourself
Now I know it can be intimidating to approach people you don’t know, but really, that’s what networking is all about. If approaching one person seems too hard, try approaching a small group of people and joining in on their existing conversation.
Pro tip: Prior to the event, try brushing up on some industry news and trends. That way, if your conversation becomes stale, you’ll have plenty of talking points to get you through.
5. Be a listener
Networking isn’t just about talking. It’s about listening as well. When you ask someone a question, make sure to actually listen to their response. Many people at these events are talkers, so being an active listener will help set you apart from the pack.
6. Be a connector
Instead of focusing solely on making your own connections, make an effort to connect others as well. If you’re talking to someone and happen to think of someone else at the event who could be of help to (or be helped by) this person, make that introduction. People will appreciate your extra effort.
7. Take notes
After chatting with someone, be sure to jot down a few notes about your conversation. You can do this on the back of their business card if they gave you one. Then, when it comes time to follow up with that person, mention one or two of those key points. Not only will this help the person remember who you are, but it will show them that you were actually paying attention to what they had to say.
8. Follow Up
A good rule of thumb is to follow up with people within 72 hours of attending an event. Now depending on the type of conversation you had, you may want to reach out to them via email. But at the very least, be sure to connect with them on LinkedIn. And don’t just send them a standard “Let’s connect” message. Personalize it based on your conversation.
What other networking tips do you have? Let us know in the comments below!