5 Go-to Tips for Your Next Networking Event

Don't just drink wine and ask "what do you do?"

Pressmaster/Shutterstock

Pressmaster/Shutterstock

What did you do at your last networking event? Have a glass of wine? Catch up with a few friends? Give out some cards? Get way too drunk and make a fool out of yourself?

With a little bit of planning your next networking event could be a lot more productive.

Here are 5 tips:

  1. Have a GoalWhat do you hope to accomplish with your networking? Who are you looking to meet? It’s a great idea to give some thought to why you are networking. This will help you determine where to network so you can be more strategic about the events where you invest time and money — and ensure the right people are in the room. You should also think about what type of people would be potential strategic partners for you or your business. If you don’t have a specific goal or are new to networking, just tell yourself you will make three new connections at your next event.
  2. Be Prepared: This is important for everyone but especially for those that are not outgoing or natural networkers. Being prepared will put you more at ease. Make sure you have plenty of business cards (even if you are in transition). Research the event format. If the event starts with open networking, be on time or early since that is the best time to make connections before there is a formal meal or program. Find out if you will be expected to deliver an “elevator pitch” so that you are not surprised. If available, look over the attendee list and think about connecting with a few people on LinkedIn prior to the event. Tell them you are looking forward to connecting in person at the event itself.
  3. Be Engaged: At a networking event, the person you are talking to should be the only person in the room. It does not matter if there is someone more important right over their shoulder. Be respectful in the moment. Put your phone away! Really make an effort to listen to people and ask good questions. Maintain eye contact and don’t look around to scope out the room. It’s a great idea to try to ask open-ended questions instead of the standard, “What do you do?” An example could be as simple as “How has your day been?” or a more work-related question such as “What projects are you working on?” Always keep in mind that it’s more important to build a connection than to talk shop. If you talk to someone about your mutual love of running they are much more likely to remember you anyway, and there will be time to talk about your businesses as you continue to build that relationship after the event.
  4. Be a Connector: Always be looking for ways you can be a giver and connect people. It’s good karma and shows your value immediately. Sometimes you can even do this at an event. You may talk to someone and 15 minutes later meet someone else that you think would be a good connection for them. Introduce them right there! In your daily life outside of events themselves make a point of connecting people in your network. I am a big fan of the “Five Minute Favor” concept from the book Give & Take by Adam Grant (a must read). The idea is to do something for someone else that is of high value to them but takes five minutes or less of your time. A virtual introduction connecting people in your network is a prime example of this idea. Others might be inviting someone to an event or forwarding an article to them.
  5. Follow-up: This is where people really drop the ball when it comes to networking. Only a very small percentage of people actually follow-up. My rule of thumb is to try to follow up with someone 24-72 hours after an event. Sure, it’s fine to follow up after that but as much as possible try to do it within three days. Try to personalize your follow up by referencing where you met and maybe even what you discussed. Make sure your follow up does not include a sales pitch or laundry list of your services. You are still in the “dating” period. Business is done based on credibility and trust and you have not built any yet. Set a coffee date, a follow-up phone call to get to know someone better or invite them to another event to meet-up again.

Jennifer Lynn Robinson, is the CEO of Purposeful Networking. She conducts keynotes, workshops and seminars assisting companies, non-profits, groups and conferences to help ensure your networking is working for you. You can connect with her at on Twitter, at purposefulnetworking.com or [email protected]