Attending events takes time, but there are many advantages - building your profile will help you to build your career, gain detailed insights into your industry and even secure new business. So how can you make sure you stand out from the crowd? Here are a few tips to get you started:
Prepare for your event
If you’re tight for time and business savvy, you’ll choose the networking meetings that are most relevant to you. And in the same vein, if you’ve selected an event that’s important to you as a professional, it’s worth taking some time to collect your thoughts beforehand. To start with, make sure you know which speakers you’re interested in, look at the guest list and remember the names of the people you’d like to speak to including the companies they work for. As well as making it easier to introduce yourself to contacts, this will save you asking basic questions about job titles or the places people work. Dress to impress and show some of your personality in the outfit you choose – perhaps a brightly coloured scarf or tie. It goes without saying that first impressions are key in situations like this.
Don’t be afraid to speak to people
If you’re a naturally shy person, set yourself a target of speaking to two or three new professionals at each event. After a couple of months, if you’re networking effectively, you’ll start to recognise faces when you walk into the room, so taking the opportunity to speak to people initially will make your task easier in the long-run. A good way to start a conversation is to look for someone who seems on the edge of the group and might appreciate a friendly smile. Having said this, you should also move around the room in order to make the most of your time. Hand out your business card, where appropriate, to ensure that contacts remember you when they return to the office.
Listen to conversations
When you’re at an event, you should find the right balance of leading a conversation and listening. Don’t oversell yourself, networking is all about nurturing relationships so try not to jump in with a pitch before the contact is formed. Instead, take time to hear about peoples’ experiences, which will allow you to add your own insightful comments. Remember, networking can serve to spark new ideas, help you learn more about your industry and see business challenges in a different light. If you find yourself in a group of like-minded people, all of this should come easily. By demonstrating interest in others, you’re likely to find much in common, which could prove useful later down the life when it comes to doing business.
Use social media to your advantage
You’re at an event listening to a speaker who is raising some interesting points about the future of your industry. So how about using this opportunity to post online, in order to share what you’ve learnt with others? There are a number of advantages in doing this – tweeting or sharing your viewpoint will make you stand out to people at the event who are also on social media. Your comments could also be useful to a wider network of professionals who will go on to connect with you via your profile or website. Social media can be the perfect way to boost your brand and taking the opportunity to post while you’re networking can ensure that you’re seen and heard.
Think about your elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a quick soundbite which explains what you do as a business. The idea is that if you only get five minutes with a hiring manager or dream client, you’re able to sell yourself in a way which is convincing and compelling. When you’re attending an event, you never know what opportunities might come your way so try working on your elevator pitch. Think about what makes you different, as an individual or a company, and keep it conversational using language which everyone can understand. Although networking isn’t always about selling, it pays to have an ace up your sleeve if a potential customer comes your way.
Follow up with new contacts
When you meet an interesting business contact, make sure you build on this relationship by continuing to communicate post-event. It’s true that networking can happen anywhere, it doesn’t need a formal venue, so why not arrange to meet up for a coffee in the near future? Consider how you can help people, whether it’s offering resources or business expertise. By giving up your time initially, you will become a valuable adviser to potential Clients, which could lead to a business deal later down the line.
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