If you’re looking for a new job or want to promote your startup, networking events are a great resource. You can not only meet a lot of new people, but you also get the chance to see how well you get on. Of course, with that potential reward in the background, it can be a little nerve-wracking. To help you make sure you make a great impression at your next networking event, we’ve put together a few tips on what (and what not) to do.
BEFORE THE EVENT
Where are you going?
First and most importantly, you need an event to go to. Not just any event, either, but the right event. Think about the kind of people that will attend, what the focus is, and if it’s really relevant to you. Using Eventbrite, you can see different types of events in your area, as well as how much they cost and which of your Facebook friends are going.
Do some research
Take the time to find out people or companies who will be there and figure out which ones you’d like to speak to. Event platforms often offer a list of attendees and some even show a profile. If not, you can search the names on Linkedin. Jot down names of people you would like to meet.
Then, do some research about them. That way you won’t waste time when you’re there and you will sound well-prepared when meeting people. Proactively seek out the people on your list but be careful not to come across as creepy.
>> Want to know how to to organize your own networking event? Read this interview with an expert (in German).
You should also get hold of a map of the venue to stop you from wandering around aimlessly and print out some CVs to take with you. You never know when you might need one.
Get business cards
If you don’t already have them, some websites, such as Vistaprint, will let you create basic business cards for very little (sometimes even for free, with you only paying postage). It’s worth it to look professional and prepared, rather than scrabbling for paper and a pen to write down your contact details. It also means that people will have a physical reminder of meeting you.
Make sure you keep the cards somewhere easy to access and where they won’t get crumpled. You should also take plenty to avoid that “Sorry, I just gave out my last one” scenario.
Choose the right outfit
First impressions count. Dress to impress. These cliches exist because they’re right. Don’t throw on any old thing at the last minute. Think about the type of event you will be attending and the people that will be there before you make your decision. If the event has a startup focus, this article has some advice which can help you.
Write an elevator pitch
Don’t be lost for words at the wrong moment. Prepare a short, powerful introduction to yourself that you can use to full effect and without wasting anyone’s time.
AT THE EVENT
When you meet someone, shake their hand. It’s not just me telling you this, it’s science. Researchers found that shaking hands has a positive effect on people’s evaluation of social interactions. In postdoctoral research associate Sanda Dolcos’ own words, “We found that it not only increases the positive effect toward a favorable interaction, but it also diminishes the impact of a negative impression.” There you have it.
Don’t just talk about yourself. Make the effort to ask questions and listen to the answers. You’ll learn a lot more and leave the person you were talking to with a good impression. Just make sure they are thoughtful, relevant questions.
Find a link
Focus on what you have in common to get someone engaged in the conversation. It’s an easy way to build a rapport. This will be easier to do if you have done your research.
Quality not quantity
You could meet everyone in the room but focus instead on making meaningful connections with a few people that are really worth getting to know. Nevertheless, if you sense that one conversation partner does not offer much opportunity for a collaboration, don’t spend too much time on the conversation. Excuse yourself politely and move on.
AFTER THE EVENT
Doing this at the event will distract you from the conversation, so do it as soon as you get home while everything is fresh in your mind. Note down who you met, their companies, what you talked about and your impressions. You can also write down quick notes on the business card of the person you’ve just met, so it will be easier for you to make detailed notes later. Use a roller pen as many business cards are laminated.
Follow up in a timely fashion
If you said you’d do something, do it. Do it sooner rather than later, too. Within a couple of days would be ideal. So, send that email or Linkedin request before you forget about it. Too soon could also make you seem over eager, so waiting until the following day is ideal.
That’s a lot to bear in mind but with these tips you can make a fantastic impression on potential employers or business partners. It’s well worth taking a bit of time and making an effort to ensure that happens.
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