Get the most out of your next networking event by planning ahead
by Michelle Matos
Networking can feel kind of like speed dating. You have a short amount of time to make a good impression and hopefully make a valuable connection. Here are a few tips for how you can prepare for your next networking event, so that you can optimize your chances at scoring that life-changing connection.
1. Know Your Goals
This tip is on every list in the top search results for how to prepare for a networking event. In order for you to get the most out of your networking efforts, you have to know exactly what you want to get out of it. Take some time to think about this. Whether you want to get a job or an internship, acquire a mentor, partner with someone to execute a project or idea, whatever your goal is, remember to keep this in mind while talking to people, and pay attention to how they might be able to help you reach it.
2. Research Who Will Be There
It’s unlikely that you’ll meet every person there, so be strategic in your decisions of who to talk to. Don’t just try to meet as many new people as you can. Focus on quality over quantity. Sometimes you will have access to a list of all the people who will be in attendance. If you do, research the people on that list and make note of the ones that you think can help you reach your goal. Think of what you want to know from them, questions you can ask them, and specific topics you’d like to discuss with them.
3. Plan Your Outfit
First impressions are everything at networking events because you have such little time to make a connection with a person there, and realistically, looks are a big part of first impressions. If you’re not sure what the appropriate attire is, it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Networking events can be business casual, but if that is not specified, go with business professional. If you have business cards, make sure to have a bundle of them in your pocket.
4. Practice Your Elevator Speech
But don’t overdo it. In an article on LinkedIn, networking expert Sandy Jones-Kaminski says, “no one really wants to hear you announce that you are an ‘international business consultant with a passion for bringing second-stage medical technology businesses to their full potential by leveraging….’” You get the idea. You’ll need to be able to answer the “tell me about yourself” question without hesitation; however, you don’t want to sound rehearsed or robotic. Keep in mind your goals and a few key things you want to mention, but don’t force them into every introduction, and don’t act differently in an effort to seem more impressive. People are intrigued by genuine conversations. The best thing you can do is to be authentic and be yourself.
If you get nervous at the thought of attending a networking event, you’re sure to feel more prepared after following these tips. If you know your goals, the people you want to meet, what you are going to wear, and what you want to say about yourself, you’re set. Best of luck with all your networking efforts!
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