After about a year in the PR world, I am beginning to realize the importance of networking. Social media is a great way to connect, but the face-to-face experience a real networking event provides is tough to beat. In many of today’s top careers, networking is an important way to make connections and discover new business leads. However, if you are like me and hate people… then I have some tips to help you get the most out of your next networking event because your time is valuable! (I’m kidding about hating people, kind of 😉 )
How to Rock a Networking Event (When You Kinda Hate People)
First, find the best networking event for your needs. You can discover new events using sites like Eventbrite or even by searching Facebook events in your area. If you are involved with a group, check out their site or give them a call to see if they have any networking opportunities coming up.
Before signing up for an event, see who is going to be there. Most places will list the guests who have already committed to attend. You should also research the speakers or chairs of the group. That way, you can see if these are people you want to make connections with and if this event will be worth your time. You can take this one step further by contacting the organizer. Offer to help or volunteer as a way to get even more involved while also getting better access to the people you are looking to connect with.
Once you know who you want to meet at the event, a little extra research is worth your while. Do a quick google search to learn about their recent features and career milestones. Find them on social media and see what their interests are. This way, you will have something meaningful to add to the conversation when you meet.
On the day of the event, be sure to arrive early. This is a great way to get some face time with the speakers or big players before it gets crowded. Since many speakers have a packed schedule, this is a great time to introduce yourself, since they will get swarmed once they are finished or head right out. Don’t interrupt them if they appear to be prepping for their speech, but if they are just hanging around, make your move and introduce yourself!
In the days after your networking event, be sure to follow up with the people you met. Send a nice email and follow them on Linkedin. (if you leave a recommendation while you are there, then that is a bonus!) If it is someone you can see yourself making a business connection with, invite them to lunch or out for coffee. It is good to schedule the meeting while you are still fresh in their minds!
Networking can be tedious, but it is also a great way to make new contacts and even some new friends! With a little effort beforehand, you can make the most out of every networking event and make sure it is time well spent. If you go in prepared you will feel way less awkward, even if you are anti-social, like me. 😉