Every single event you attend has the potential to help you further your career. How’s that? The key is coming in with the right mindset and then taking just a few manageable steps while you’re there.
1. Approach strangers. It’s tempting to cling to known acquaintances when you are at a business event, but this is a mistake if you want to get your name out there. Instead of circulating with your golf buddy, Joe Smith, who you’ve known since your first gig together out of college, reach out and mingle with some new faces. While this can prove daunting for some folks, it is an invaluable way to make connections. Set a goal for yourself before you attend the event; for example, determine that you’re going to meet 5 new people. The key to connecting with new folks is to find common ground on which to build a conversation. One way to do this is to come prepared to discuss or just comment on at least one recent news item related to your industry or the event you’re attending. Another way is to ask why someone is attending the event and what they hope to get out of it. You know that you have at least these things in common with others in the room, so work them to your advantage.
2. Offer to help. People appreciate it. The key is to listen to conversations and determine whether you can offer any assistance. For example, let’s say you are discussing a news story that the other person has not heard about. Offer to send them an email with the link to the story. If someone is talking about a problem they’re experiencing and you know of a person or company that can help, offer to text them later with a contact name. They’ll remember you and be more apt to want to stay in touch.
3. Be intriguing. This sounds harder than it really is. One mistake many prospective networkers make is to launch into exhausting detail when asked, “What do you do?” Answer with a short sentence or two that divulges some information about what you do without laying it all out. This way people are likely to want to learn more about you and your work. For example, “At Planetpro, we help businesses accelerate their revenues with talent.” This reveals what we do and leaves the door open for questions and further conversation.
4. Bring your business cards. Sure, it’s old school, and most of us rely solely on our digital devices; still, it’s useful to have a card ready to hand to someone who might be rushed, and a pen to write down your personal contact information for someone whose phone just died. Don’t get stuck wanting to connect with even one person and missing on that opportunity for unexpected reasons.
Whether you are attending a charity gala, a business conference, or even an interdepartmental meeting, you have many opportunities to network. Position yourself to take advantage of every opportunity by coming prepared and moving out of your comfort zone. You’ll find yourself quickly reaping the rewards.
How do you take advantage of events to network? What have you learned in the past about how to leverage these events to your advantage?