The most important question to ask yourself before attending a networking event is: “why am I here?” Is it to meet new people, find romance, learn something new, meet potential clients…the possibilities are endless. You can group the reason to attend a networking event into three major categories: formal, personal, and casual.
An event where impressions made are of the utmost importance (ex. career/graduate school fair, organized professional groups, industry event).
Before: Dress for success and be prepared.
A formal networking event does not mean that you have to wear a business suit. Dressing for success simply means to attend the event polished and in a way where everyone will treat you with respect. Being prepared can range from practicing your elevator pitch to walking with samples. Make sure you know what is needed to make the event a success.
During: Remember the goal.
If you attend an event with the intention of securing a job do not spend the entire evening talking to the person you came with. Remain focused and act with a purpose in everything you do; networking events are short – use your time wisely.
After: Acknowledgements and follow up.
If the event was a success for you, there will be someone to follow up with. Do this preferably within 24 hours, it’s that simple.
An event where the stakes aren’t high, but something can be gained (ex. employee network event at work, speed dating, social event with a new group of friends).
Before: Focus on genuinity.
It is easy to put up a front for people and behave in the way you think you should act. Prior to attending the event take a few moments to reflect internally on who you are and why you are going. Focusing within will allow you to walk away from the event having an honest experience and not wasting time.
A networking event that is more personal in nature should be fun. Take time to enjoy it by soaking up the ambiance, experiencing something new, and challenging your comfort zone.
Is this something you would enjoy doing again? If so, find other venues or opportunities to network in the same way again. If not, on to the next one.
Typically an event where you are learning something new that does not have “networking” as its main focus (workshop/seminar, public event sponsored by a company or non profit, skilled class like baking or screenwriting).
Before: Know the why and respect the possibilities.
Be clear on why you are attending the event but open to more. You may go to an event desiring to learn something new and find yourself with a new group of people who are passionate about the same things you are.
Take it all in. Leave all worries and preconceived notions at the door.
After: Plan it.
Is this casual experience something that you would like to add into your life? Are there other similar things that you would like to try? Take the time after the event to plan next steps.
Everyone knows that networking is important but how to succeed at it is tough. I hope the suggestions given add some clarity and make you more successful at your next networking event.