Attending events related to your industry is a great way to expand your network, market your brand, and gain clients.
But I know from personal experience that it’s easier said than done.
Business-centric events are typically home to loud crowds of coffee-fuelled professionals who seem to be either constantly on the move, or locked in conversation. It can be overwhelming.
But with the right networking strategies, you can turn those daunting scenes into beneficial ones – and you may even enjoy yourself in the process.
To make the most out of your next meet-up, here are my golden rules to follow at any networking event.
1. Research Targets
Before you even get to the event, it’s a good idea to scope out potential networking targets who are also planning to attend.
A good way to go about finding names is to check out the event’s list of booked speakers. Also, checking out the event’s social handles and hashtags is a great way to find other people who are discussing it.
Once you identify a few names that would make valuable additions to your network, you can focus on how you can professionally court them during the event.
2. Dress Well
Well dressed people are more confident, and confidence plays a massive role when it comes to networking in real life.
With that garment-fuelled confidence boost, you’ll find it easier to approach and chat to people throughout the day.
However, bear in mind that dressing well doesn’t necessarily mean dressing up. In fact, I’ve been to my fair share of events where the dress code was surprisingly casual. Just make sure your clothes are snazzy, ironed, and colour coordinated, and you’ll be fine.
3. Listen (With Sincerity)
Networking isn’t all about you. In order to win the hearts and minds of your fellow attendees, you’ll need to be sincere about your interest in them.
When conversation is sparked, focus on being an attentive listener. Then, you can formulate some questions based on what the person in front of you has said.
If that doesn’t work, try asking questions that imply you’re interested in the person you’re talking to. Here are my favourites:
- Do you enjoy working for your company?
- What’s the most exciting project you've ever worked on?
- Are there any future projects on the horizon that you’re looking forward to?
4. Optimize Your Body Language
Body language makes up 55% of human communication – so when it comes to networking events, your body needs to be saying the right things.
The body language you exhibit at any event will determine how people receive you when you engage them in conversation, and it will also impact the chances of people approaching you themselves.
Practises like healthy amounts of eye contact and placing your hands behind your back are good ways to optimize your body language, although my article on how to show leadership through body language goes into more detail.
5. Bring Business Cards
That’s right, business cards still have a use.
Make sure you have a stash of at least ten business cards with you (for each day of the event) to hand out.
But be careful of becoming a business card spammer. Only dish your cards out to people who either ask for them, or seem genuinely interested in what you do. If you stick to that ethos, that stash of ten should be plenty.
Oh, and don’t forget to take their cards too, so you can follow up. Speaking of which...
6. Follow Up
Your networking efforts shouldn’t end when the event does. In fact, the event should merely mark the beginning of your newly formed professional relationships.
After taking business cards and other contact information, be sure to send your new business friends an email to solidify any bonds that were forming.
And of course, an obligatory LinkedIn connection request would then be in order.
They say old school is the best school, and when it comes to networking, I would have to agree.
There’s nothing quite like meeting and chatting with somebody face to face, particularly if they can help further your business in some way. It can be difficult to get started, but with the six golden rules above, your next event will be a cinch.
Got any other networking event tips? Talk to us about them in the comments section below!
About the Author
Kaya Ismail is a wordsmith and founder of Employ the Internet. He is a seasoned content marketer with a love for video games and coffee.