Corporate networking events can be overwhelming, but they’re a great way for anyone to make career-building connections. However, I’ve found that being properly prepared before the event is a key way to make your time there successful. If you have a networking event coming up, take a look a these tips to help you prepare for it:
1. Do your research
Before attending the function, make sure you know what to expect. That way, you’ll be able to build an action plan for networking effectively. Know who is hosting the event, who the key speakers are and research some of the important people who will be attending. If there’s someone you especially want to make your mark on, now’s the time to find out about them and prepare some insightful questions that can help you stand out.
2. Bring your business cards
Your business cards are by far your most important tools for success. Everyone attending the function will likely speak with dozens of people, so they’ll need a way to remember you. In my experience, it’s a good idea to bring a pen along as well. After your conversation, jot down a quick note on the back of the card that will help them remember who you are. For instance, write something like “It was great talking with you at X event. Let’s set up a time to talk more about X.”
3. Dress up to stand out
Dress to impress may sound cliche, but first impressions are very important at networking events where you have mere minutes to stand out from the crowd. Wear something formal and professional. Also, it doesn’t hurt to incorporate a statement piece like a cool tie or bright necklace that will help people remember you.
4. Practice your pitch
Prepare what you’re going to say to introduce yourself to the event attendees. It should be concise but still show off your personality and professionalism – you don’t want to sound like you memorized an intro.
5. Shake hands twice
Begin and end every conversation with a handshake. This will help you introduce yourself assertively, avoid any awkwardness when the conversation is wrapping up, and make you seem confident and professional. Be sure to hold your drink, notebook or anything else in your left hand so your right hand is always free to shake.
6. Focus on real connections
Don’t feel like you have to talk to everybody for the experience to be successful. In fact, the better way to handle a networking event is to make real connections with just a few key people, rather than having short conversations with as many as you can. This applies to your business cards as well: Only hand them out to those whom you’ve spent time conversing and developing a rapport with.
After the event, don’t forget to send thank you cards to the hosts who invited you. Very few people take the time to send a written note anymore, so it will make you stand out. They may even keep you in mind for more great opportunities in the future because of it.