Your ability to network your business or even your individual skills as a professional may be the single most important factor in determining whether you ultimately succeed or fail in your career endeavors. The very nature of successful networking creates a positive feedback loop that can drive long-term success for years after the initial inroads are made. And with countless platforms now available for professional and social networking, simply deciding where to focus your efforts can be a bit overwhelming. But rest assured, some of the best marketing ROI available is in attending and becoming an active participant in networking events.
When planning to attend a networking event, especially the first few, it is critical that you put in the effort to be adequately prepared. Taking the time to get your mind and ideas together will help you to stay focused while you are at the event. Simply doing your research and writing down your goals will give you direction and confidence.
Prior to attending the event, arm yourself with as much information as possible. Locate and study the roster of speakers, companies, relevant break-out sessions, and notable individuals who will also be in attendance. Doing some upfront homework on various speakers and their specific topics will create opportunities for you to take part in the discussion and ask insightful questions. If you have the opportunity to introduce yourself to the speaker, commonalities are always good ice-breakers. By engaging as an active participant in the event, you are establishing to other attendees that you are interested in making connections and you are acknowledging the presenters and the speakers for the work they put in preparing for their roles at the event. These small bits of personal effort are often rewarded several times over with genuinely appreciative new contacts and immediate personal connections that can lead to big professional opportunities.
Establish a Networking Game Plan
Jotting down your event goals is also key when preparing for a networking event. Clear personal objectives will help you optimize your time and hopefully get the most out of the event. Ask yourself what you would like to achieve by the end of the event, including what types of connections you want to make. Examples of these connections include media contacts, potential clients, and others who may be in the same general field. There are often opportunities to work jointly with a company or individuals who specialize in services complementary to your own. Reviewing how your actual time spent aligned with your game plan will help to hone your strategy for future events.
Personality and First Impressions
When planning to attend a networking event, the way that you are initially perceived can have a huge impact on how successful your event can be. Be sure to dress appropriately to capture the right tone for your business and for the contacts you would most like to attract. The possibility of being included on a social media post is high, so make sure your look is appropriate for people both inside and outside your immediate industry and normal social spheres.
Depending on your business, your professional experience, and your personal preference, you may have some misgivings about attending and actively participating in networking events. Some of them can seem pretty contrived and geared toward funneling all of the attendees into a fairly narrow channel where only select companies and individuals can recruit. And these would certainly be events to avoid. But many are completely legitimate operations that offer real value and real opportunities for attendees, speakers, and presenters. Get in the game, hone your networking skills, and good things are going to happen.