How to kick ass at a networking event

Broadly speaking, when it comes to networking events, there are two types of people.

There are those who waltz into the room like they own the place, charming the pants off everyone they speak to. They engage with the keynote speaker, have the room in fits of laughter, and leave the event with at least a couple of promising business meetings set up.

And then there are those who break a sweat at the mere idea of ‘mingling’, who are so nervous that they stumble over their own names when making introductions. These poor souls invariably end up hiding in a corner all night, clinging to the free drinks and canapés like life rafts.

No matter which category you fall into, there’s always room to up your networking game. We’ve put together a few simple pointers to help you make the most of the next networking event you attend.

  1. Have a clear objective.

It may sound obvious, but it pays to work out exactly what you hope to achieve by attending a particular event. Are you looking for a new job? Hunting down an investor for your new business idea? Looking to find new customers? With your objective in mind, craft—and practice—a compelling elevator pitch. You’ll be happy you’ve got it waxed when someone asks the inevitable, ‘So, what do you do?’

  1. Do some stalking.

Sometimes it’s possible to find out who else is attending an event beforehand. This can be invaluable, as it allows you to do a little snooping—ahem, research—on the other attendees. Take note of who you really want to get chatting to, and be sure to check out their company websites and online business profiles. That way, when you meet them, you’ll have engaging and relevant talking points ready to go.

  1. Personalise your business cards.

Yep, they may seem ‘old school’ in today’s digital world, but business cards still play a valuable role in a networking setting. Pro tip: Don’t print on both sides of your business cards. Instead, use the empty white space on the reverse side to jot down something useful and unique. For example, if you discuss a specific service or product with a potential client, jot down the main selling point on your business card as a quick reminder before handing it over. That way, you’ll make it much easier for them to remember why your product is perfect for them.

  1. Get personal.

How do you make yourself stand out from everyone else milling around the bar? By connecting on a personal, human level as well as a professional one. Wherever possible, seek to find common points of interest. Maybe the potential investor you’ve fallen into conversation with is a craft beer aficionado, an avid traveller, a parent of teenage kids, or a passionate surfer. Ask them about it, pay attention to what excites them, and relate back to your own experiences and interests. Guaranteed, they’ll remember you in a much more positive light if you get this right.

  1. Use the power of a person’s name.

People love to hear their own name, so make a point of calling a person by their name in conversation. It’s a tried-and-tested way to get them to warm up to you faster.

  1. Wear a professional name badge.

Wearing a chic, professional-looking name badge is a great way to make yourself stand out from all the other attendees wearing temporary, stick-on name tags. New connections are more likely to remember your name, your logo, and your company name, if they see it on a unique name badge. Name badges also give you a more professional air.

  1. Put some thought into your follow-ups.

Don’t limit your follow-ups to blank LinkedIn invites. Personalise each message as much as possible, and take the opportunity to quickly reiterate your elevator pitch or USP (unique selling point) in as few words as possible. If you’re keen to set up a meeting, suggest a time and date now, while you’ve got momentum and your interaction is still fresh in your prospect’s mind.

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