Networking is much more than showing up, having drinks, grabbing snacks, and handing out business cards. In fact, the purpose of a networking event is to help you advance professionally, providing you the opportunity to meet new people within your industry. This could very well be the lead to your next job! While these events are indeed social, it is important to remember they are, first and foremost, professional. Here are five ways to prepare for a networking event:
1. Dress Professionally
When you are planning your outfit, dress for success! Always check to see if there is a dress code posted prior to the event. You don’t want to look disheveled, unorganized, or overly casual. You want people to remember you in a professional way, so be sure to pick conservative attire that still makes you feel comfortable and confident.
2. Research the Attendees
Many networking events will include a list of attendees, presenters, and special guests. Make a quick list of people you want to connect with and set aside enough time to do your homework. Also, researching the attendees’ professional backgrounds will increase your chances of developing lasting conversations. LinkedIn is a great source for this! In fact, if you are interested in staying up-to-date with your industry, but are not sure where start, “LinkedIn Events” is an extremely helpful tool for finding networking opportunities within your location.
3. Research Sponsoring Companies
Some networking events will be sponsored. Often, these types of events are referred to as “association mixers” or “conferences.” Companies use these types of events to attract future candidates as well as promote products. It would be smart to research these companies and know as much as possible before the event. One way you could do this is to search the company name, along with the current year, and to also search for press releases. Hopefully this will help you track down major projects, expansions, recent contracts, partners, and more. This type of research will benefit you in future conversations. You never know, you might end up talking to your future employer!
4. Update Your Social Media Sites
Just like you, others will be researching attendees as well. For this reason, be sure to have your most up-to-date professional and educational background available on your social media sites. Also make sure your content represents you in a compelling way and that your profile photos are professional.
5. Last Minute Details
Have you ever had a great conversation with someone, reached for a business card, and then realized you were completely out? Don’t let this happen at a networking event. If you don’t want to hand out business cards with the current company you are with or if you are unemployed, you can make your own personalized cards. Include your name, contact information, and a few keywords that describe your expertise. Some examples of keywords are: “Marketing Communication,” “Project Leadership,” “Web Content Design,” etc.
Also be sure to charge your cell phones before the event. These days, everyone relies on their cell phones for communication. Having your phone die is just the same as forgetting your business cards.
Hopefully some of these tips can increase your networking success! Every moment matters. Don’t forget to smile, have fun, and to make the most of your opportunity!