Most people are uncomfortable walking into a room full of strangers, but when it comes to industry events, it's a necessary skill set. Still, it does not have to be torture chamber of forced smiles and small talk. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of the events you attend:
- Come prepared
Have plenty of business cards, a list of people that you want to meet, and do your research. Another tip that you may overlook – eat beforehand. Juggling a plate of food while trying to shake hands may only add to any awkwardness.
- Establish a goal before the event
What is your purpose for attending? Are you seeking a particular customer? What do you want to accomplish and why? Do you have an advocate that can introduce you to the prospect? This will be your guide through the event and will help you stay focused and ask strategic questions.
- Arrive early
Whether you've never been there before or you're familiar with the venue, arriving early allows you to network with a smaller crowd and get more comfortable. Ask the host to introduce you to people if you aren't familiar with the group. It also helps avoid the stressful side effects of running late (i.e. stress sweat 😥).
- Listen up
When speaking with people, listen more than you talk. This is a great place to put your rapport-building skills to use! Ask open-ended questions and let them do the talking. You'd be amazed at how you can make yourself memorable as a good listener.
- Follow up
This may be the most important action. What are you going to do with all those cards and conversations you exchanged? Write personalized "nice to meet you" cards after the event. This can go a long way with a potential client. And, this is a great time to ask clients and colleagues to connect with you on social media like LinkedIn.
Having a game plan before a networking event can make the event much more enjoyable, show your worth as a professional and increase your ROI. Once you master these skills, you will come to see networking events as strong business opportunities worth the investment instead of just a social obligation.
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