You’ll never stop hearing it: networking is crucial in the world of PR and marketing. Thanks to technology, expanding your professional network is as simple as one click. That being said, there is no substitute for the value of face to face interactions.
Blindly walking into a networking event will lead to wasted effort and time for you and potential connections. Below are simple tips to help prep for your next networking event:
Tip: Research the event and attendees
1. Know why you are attending.
Clearly you're interested in participating in the event for some reason. Is it the thematic topic? The host organization? A group of experts who will be sharing their expertise? Read all you can about what interests you before the event.
2. Know something about the event.
Familiarize yourself with the topic, the speakers, the sponsors, or the host organization so that you can drop into casual conversation. Unless this is a first annual or monthly event, there should be past articles, blog posts or Twitter conversations about previous sessions that you can draw from.
3. Know the attendees.
Almost every Meet Up or large event will be run through an online RSVP system, sometimes with mobile apps, and you can see who else has signed up to attend. Look through the list in advance and see if there is anyone with a marketing title that you’d like to meet during the event. Check their Twitter feed and LinkedIn profile to learn about them. You never know what commonalities you might have with this person and it gives you something to drop into the conversation when appropriate (without seeming like a social media stalker, of course).
Tip: Know what your objective is and go in with the right frame of mind
1. Make the first move.
Don’t expect people to come up and talk to you if you stand in a corner on your own. They’re there to meet people, and why not you?
2. You do not need to be a salesperson!
When meeting someone for the first time, focus on the potential relationship you might form. You’re there to get to know a new person. And remember, you don't have to sell to friends. If you create a relationship, and the person trusts and likes you, opportunities may fall in your lap at a later date. You are sowing the seeds now to reap the rewards down the line.
3. Practice patience.
Sure, sometimes immediate opportunities will be apparent. But networking isn’t about closing business deals or meeting hordes of new people. It’s about developing relationships in which future business can be closed. You don’t have to make a pitch right out of the gate. Just think about building your circle of friends and finding out more about these strangers.
4. Everyone is a potential client.
You’re representing your brand at all times. Even if someone seems to have no connection to you, they may change roles at some point (maybe they’re networking because they are seeking a new position), or they may know someone who is looking for what you can offer. Give each person at least five minutes of your time and make a good first impression.
Final Do's and Don'ts:
These are just a few tips to help prepare for your next networking event. What is your pre-networking strategy? Comment below.
Stay tuned for more tips while attending networking events.