Six Tips for Networking Events

December means so many things: winter festivals and holidays, shopping, parties, Christmas music on the radio, mall Santas, fattening and sugary food, and networking events. So many networking events. In fact, I know of four tonight (though I’m probably missing several).

So, to help you get through these events, and to help you use them for your business or job hunting needs, here are six of the tips that WIL offers its clients for networking events.

1. Research

Find out who’s attending and do a little research. Figure out who you want to meet, and make sure you have something to talk about (background, current business, etc.). That means checking them out on social media (LinkedIn is you friend here). We’re not saying creep them, but finding out about them will certainly make conversation easier.

2. Prepare

Do you have business cards? Are you dressed appropriately? It’s not always a function for business attire or black tie, but dressing up a little wouldn’t hurt. You can also bring someone. It makes walking into a room full of potential strangers a little easier.

3. Have a pitch

You should already have this: a quick introduction of who you are, what you do, and, if you’re looking for work, what kind of opportunities you’re looking for.

4. Be yourself, but also be smart

Know who you are and don’t pretend to be anyone else. Know your strengths. Be ready to talk about them. Listen, too. They say that we have only one mouth but two ears for a reason. Pay attention. Show interest in what others are saying, and answer questions. When you’re asking questions, try to make them open ended. Not “Do you like your job?” Try “So you’re a(n) X. What’s that like?”

5. Know what’s going on

Networking events are often organised geographically or by industry, or by both. Knowing what’s happening in a community is a good way to make sure you have things to talk about. Listen to/watch/read the news. There are things happening in your community, no matter how you define it, and those are the things that the people at events talk about (along with other things). You’ll want to be able to contribute.

6. Follow up

The point of a networking event is to network. Meeting someone is only the first step. Review your connections from the event, and make some calls or send some emails. Extend some invitations to coffee, ask to stay connected. Find them and connect with them on LinkedIn. Tell them it was a pleasure to meet them. This is where your connections become a network.

There are already a million sources of stress in December: gifts, parties, shopping, weather, the long nights, and it’s flu season. Taking a little extra care with the networking events you’ll attend will go a long way to reducing your stress, at least on this one front.

Have a good time. Meet new people. I’ll see you out and about.