There’s a lot of talk these days about the importance of networking for finding jobs, clients and referrals. You’ll find a lot of information on the Internet about what to do at networking events — how to introduce yourself, how to size up the person you’re talking to, and so on — but the success of a networking event hinges on what you do before and after the event itself.
Preparing for a Networking Event
Don’t go into a networking event cold. Before you set foot on the site or shake your first hand, prepare for the event:
- Decide what you want to get from the event. This is easy if you’re attending a job fair as a job seeker. Other times, networking opportunities pop up during which you can set one of several goals. Are you trying to find prospects for your business? New employees? Are you trying to connect with people in an industry that you might tap in the future?
- After you know what you want, Figure out how to get it. This can be more difficult, especially for someone who is new to networking. If you’re looking for a job, for instance, decide what industries you’re most interested in and what part of your experience and personality you want to highlight; on-site interviews could be a possibility, are you ready for an interview? If not, are ready to decline the immediate interview and schedule one in the near future?
- Research. Make sure you’re up on world news (and, if appropriate, industry news) so you can intelligently participate in conversations. If you know some companies or people who will be at the event, look them up on LinkedIn and learn about them ahead of time.
- Gather your Supplies. Make sure you have any pamphlets or other paperwork that you’ll need. No networking event would be complete without business cards, so make sure you’ve packed a good supply of them and that you know exactly what is written on them. (You’ll also need to decide where you’re going to put business cards people give you.) Always bring at least two pens.
- Practice your Elevator Pitch. While you’re at the event, numerous people will ask numerous iterations of the basic question: “Who are you?” Before you go, create your elevator pitch — a 30-second summary of who you are, what you do and what you’re looking for. Practice your pitch, but make it loose enough that when you introduce yourself you don’t sound rehearsed.
After a Networking Event
Hopefully, the event went well, and you met a lot of people and found a number of prospects. While it’s still fresh in your head, do the following things:
- Go through the Business Cards you Received. Write down any useful information about the contact on the back of the card so the information stays together.
- Within 24 hours, e-mail the most Promising Contacts. You and your prospects both met a lot of people that day, so make sure you remind them about yourself, even if you only say how nice it was to meet the person. This also gives the prospect an electronic version of your contact information.
- If the event was Hosted, thank the Host. Twitter is great for this; through followings and retweets, connecting with the host this way can lead to connecting on Twitter with other people (including some of your prospects) who were at the event. If you aren’t on Twitter, send an e-mail.
Networking events can be stressful, but much if that stress can be relieved by preparing well and having a definite plan. Having that definite plan also makes follow-up after the event a lot easier, and the follow-up is what leads to changes for the better in your life.
What other preparation or follow-up plans do you have for networking events?
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