Preparing to Attend a Networking Event

I discovered at a few recent networking events that while many people know what a networking event is all about, they do not know how to prepare for one. For example (details modified), at a recent event, I spoke to someone, and asked what he did. “I build decks and I paint and I have a lawn service.” I asked what he was looking for. “Oh, anything really.”

To me, he was clearly unprepared for the question, although he may not realize that. As a result of his answer, not only has he failed to make a positive connection, he has actually created a negative one. When I need the name of someone who does any of the 3 things he does, I will be sure NOT to recommend him. He has not established the basis for a connection, as I don’t know what he is looking for, nor do I have a sense of his credibility, competence, or reliability.

In order to prevent yourself from doing something similar, run through the following checklist before you walk in the door to your next event. Not only will you be able to avoid making such vague statements, you will be able to demonstrate your credibility by appearing prepared, confident, and goal-oriented. Some one who knows what she wants.

  1. Determine an objective for the event. Are you trying to get more contacts for your party-planning business? Are you looking for new ways to advertise? Potential business partners? Set a tangible goal for the evening, such as getting 5 names of people with entertainment connections.
  2. Prepare your Best-Test speech. Sit down with a pen and paper and list some skills that would help you reach your goal from step 1. Choose one or two, think of a creative way of stating that skill, and put together a quick example of how you applied that skill in the past. For more information on this, visit my post on Parnasa Fest.
  3. Make sure you have plenty of business cards, and that they reflect your goals for the evening. You can get cards made in a single day if necessary at many print shops. If you are planning on attracting people to your lawn-care business, don’t hand out cards for your painting services.
  4. Be prepared to talk. Think of several examples of your own work that you want to talk about. Prepare some questions to ask other people, such as What do you think of The Daily Planet for advertising? Did you feel you got a good return on investment? or Where did you go to get your website set up? Would you use them again if you had to redo the site?
  5. Bring a pen and some paper. Business cards can work as paper, but you can’t get very much information on a single card, plus you risk losing the card before the end of the event. A small notepad or a few sheets of paper can make a big difference.
  6. Don’t spend the evening talking to a couple of people. If you have that much to talk about, arrange to meet later to talk further. You’re at the event to meet more people, and it’s hard to do that if you spend an hour talking to one person and 45 minutes talking to the next. Set a limit for yourself, say, no more than 10 minutes before it’s time to arrange to meet at a later date. In a 3 hour networking event, you should be able to meet at least 30 people and know what they do, just by moving efficiently from one conversation to the next.

If you have any other ideas as to how to prepare for a networking event, let me know. If you try my advice, please let me know how it works for you. I would love to hear from you!