As more and more of us become allergic to the formal nine-to-five daily grind, networking events are becoming increasingly important in order to meet influential entrepreneurs who could help us on a path towards achieving self-made success. At networking events, you’ll be meeting people who have achieved that self-made success, and those people are definitely a wealth of knowledge.
I recently met the owner of a popular travel company at a networking event, and because he thought I was funny and nice, when he suddenly needed bloggers to join his team on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii, he thought of me. He had recently met me and remembered that I was a keen travel writer.
The people you meet at networking events can open new doors for you and introduce you to rare opportunities. Whether you’re a new blogger looking to meet established bloggers to learn from, a freelancer looking for work, or a small business owner looking for partners – these networking meet-ups will quickly become your bread and butter. Here are 8 tips to kill it and make the most of your next networking event:
1. Go solo
It might be an uncomfortable thought for some, but do not bring a plus-one to a networking event – even if you’re welcome to do so. You’ll automatically become less approachable if you’re with a friend, lost in chit-chat and unaware of your surroundings. When you bring a plus-one, you typically meet less than half of the contacts you’d otherwise meet if you had attended the event alone. When you’re solo, more people approach you as they notice that you’re not with anyone. You’re also more motivated to introduce yourself to others because you have no friend with you to fall back on. Going solo might be outside of your comfort zone, but not much good happens inside the gates of your comfort zone. Remember that.
2. Converse with influential attendees in a friendly manner – without an agenda
Spend time conversing with influential people as though they’re a new friend. Veer away from boring small talk, and avoid selling yourself too much or talking about business too much. That type of talk can wait. For now, prove that you’re a potential friend – that way, you’ll be well-liked. And guess what? Everyone likes working with someone they like, so you’ll leave the event with good odds that someone will be contacting you to grab a drink next week and talk business.
3. Arrive prepared
The day before the event, you should do some preparation. Make sure you have enough business cards printed, and take a look at the event’s guest list. Not everyone attending will be someone with whom you could potentially collaborate, which is why it’s smart to do your research beforehand and remember the names of those on the attendees list who have business that closely matches your agenda. These are the people you’ll want to ‘become friends with’ – creating an opportunity for you to discuss that ‘agenda’ at a later date over cocktails.
4. Be memorable
I always remember the person at a networking event who made me feel comfortable when I was feeling awkward (due to following my own advice about not bringing a friend). Whenever there’s that person who put me at ease when I was feeling out of place, I always remember him or her – and I always want to reach out to them after the event. One great way you can be the person who puts others at ease is by being the person who connects others. Instead of solely focusing on making your own connections, be helpful by connecting others who you think should meet each other.
5. Be the friendliest person in the room
Speaking of being memorable, if you’re extra-friendly and incredibly charming, you’ll be memorable – and you’ll be the person that magazine editor will think of when she suddenly needs someone to head a project. Be that person who cracks jokes, laughs, smiles the whole time, talks to everyone, and is basically everyone’s new best friend. Be the one who notices when someone is holding an empty beer and whip over to the bar to get them a new one as a kind gesture. You’ll be a quick crowd favorite if you do all that.
6. Look the part
Most networking events have no dress code, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dress to impress – and shower. If you dress like a confident, professional and well put-together entrepreneur, you’ll be regarded as such. Sometimes, to be taken seriously, you have to look the part.
7. Be an active listener
At these events, people who are just starting their own business or their own YouTube channel all have one thing in common: They want to talk about it. They also want the person they’re talking about their endeavors with to actually listen. Active listening is when you laugh at the right moments, nod your head at the right moments, and ask follow-up questions to prove you’ve been listening. Something like “you said you originally wanted to start a fitness-tips YouTube channel, and your plan changed to do cooking classes. Is that because cooking tips are searched for more than fitness tips?” Do this, and you’ll stand out at events.
8. Follow through
Speaking of being taken seriously, everyone appreciates meeting someone who possesses follow-through and makes a move after the event. You can prove that you’re a person who follows through by making some sort of plan. For example, at the event you can say “shall I check my schedule and e-mail you tomorrow to set up a meeting?” and actually e-mail that person the following day just like you said you would. This type of behavior demonstrates that you’d be someone who would be easy to work with, and that you’re someone who takes their business seriously. You’re the type of person who will in return be taken seriously and viewed positively.