TECH, BUSINESS AND CAREER INSIGHTS

How to Get the Most Out of a Networking Event

By: TSP Blog | @TSProckstars

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Regardless of your field of work, networking plays an important role in the growth and success of your business and career. Networking events are a great way to meet new people and can serve as the foundation to building lasting professional relationships. In a study surveying participants in the US and Canada, 46% found their current job through traditional networking. Yet many professionals go to  these events with no specific goals in mind and leave having accomplished nothing.

If you’ve experienced this, it’s time to change your mindset around networking — no longer view it as a mindless social happy hour, but rather see it as an important time to invest in your future. Follow these tips to get the most out of professional networking events.

BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT THE EVENTS YOU ATTEND
Surrounding yourself with the right people is an integral step in building a professional network that's relevant to your field of work. Meetup and Eventbrite are only two of the countless sites available to help you find and narrow down networking events. Use keywords related to your field to find events that are right for you and do your research ahead of time and prepare questions to ask attendees.

GO TO THE EVENT WITH SPECIFIC GOALS IN MIND
Whether your goal is to meet 10 new people or speak with individuals from one specific company, give yourself a quantifiable and measurable goal going into the event. Additionally, set a goal after the event to follow up with the connections you made. This could be through social media, email or by phone — however you see fit. Whatever you decide, hold yourself accountable for sticking to it.

PREPARE YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH AHEAD OF TIME
Your elevator pitch should be a concise introduction that lets people know who you are, what you do and why they should take the time to get to know you. It’s the classic answer to the age-old introduction, “Tell me about yourself!” Once you have it written down, practice your elevator pitch until it feels natural — this will ease the tension or nervousness you may feel when you're put on the spot to talk about your work.

BRING BUSINESS CARDS
This may be a no-brainer, but bring more business cards than you think you'll need and keep them in a card case to avoid bending or wrinkling them in your pocket or purse. This way, you can grab them quickly and will appear more professional than searching in your bag. Have a pen on hand in case you need to write a quick note on the back of your card as a helpful reminder to its recipient, or a note to yourself for later.

DON’T BE AFRAID
It can be intimidating to approach a stranger and begin a conversation, but that is the first step in successful networking. People expect you to approach them and introduce yourself, so be prepared to get out of your comfort zone. The purpose of a networking event is to give you the opportunity to meet new people and build lasting connections through shared interests. Having a basic opening line such as, “What brings you here?” can help you break the ice and calm your nerves about making an introduction.

BE PRESENT
Focus on the task at hand and be present in the moment. Practice being an active listener by really listening to what the person you are talking to is saying instead of just formulating your next question or response in your head. Being present and attentive will also help you remember names and other important information that comes up in conversation. If you struggle with remembering names, practice repeating someone’s name back to them in conversation.

ASK QUESTIONS
You'll become a successful networker when you realize that the connections you make aren't just about what you can gain from another person, but how you can be of service to them as well. Don’t dominate the conversation by only talking about yourself. Ask lots of genuine questions that you actually want to know the answer to. If you are interested in what the other person has to say, it'll make them feel better about themselves and in turn have a more favorable impression of you.

Networking — while important to your career — is truly about initiating and maintaining meaningful connections. Confidence, preparation and good listening skills will serve as a solid foundation to thrive in the networking event environment. Value these events as an opportunity to invest in your professional network and contribute your skills and abilities to your field, and you won’t go wrong.

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