Whether you enjoy networking events or the very idea has you queasy with dread, networking is a necessary part of any business. If you sit on the sit of dread, then I have a few tips for you.
- Pick the right type of event – There are as many types of networking events as there are types of businesses, so it’s really important to find an event where people and businesses of like minds are. If you are a creative type you will not benefit from a stuffy corporate networking event. So ask your community of creative people which events they’ve attended and loved. Be specific in your search terms when doing online research about events. Look to Instagram for suggestions by keeping track of those businesses that inspire you or search hashtags and keep track of events that sound inspirational.
- What to bring – Attending a networking event requires a bit of preparation. Have business cards to exchange with others. Many think business cards are a waste of time, but if you create a beautiful card many will hold onto them. Make sure to include your social media handles on your card as well. You can also bring examples of your work. If you make jewelry or handbags, wear your products to the event. If you are an artist, use your art on your business card or bring small 4×6 or 5×7 prints to hand out. I also like to bring a camera or use your phone camera. Bring a notepad and pen to take notes or exchange information…just in case someone you want to connect with later doesn’t have a card. A few other things I encourage you to bring, a sweater (in case the AC is too high) and a bottle of water.
- Making connections / friends – This is why you are attending the event after all. But this part is easier said then done…especially for introverts. I always suggest attending a few small networking events/lunches to get use to mingling and putting yourself out there. This also gives you a chance to meet the host and get to know them. They are full of information and contacts that can be indispensable. For all events it’s important to mentally prepare yourself. Rehearse your introduction or elevator speech. Be able to describe what you do in a couple of sentences or less. Practice this before you arrive! And then get out of your own way. In other words don’t sit with your head down or looking at your phone. Stand up and smile. Approach people and introduce yourself. Find something about an individual that appeals to you and compliment them to break the ice. Some people you’ll spend a few minutes with and others you’ll hit it off with immediately and wonder where they have been all your life.
- Take lots of pictures – This is always fun. It helps you to remember faces as well as gives you opportunities to share them on your social media accounts and tag those in the picture. This will help them to remember you and begins the relationship building really easily.
- Keeping in touch – Use your social media to connect. Follow those you met and leave them messages or tag them in your photos. For those you really connected with or even discussed working together in the future…contact them with 24 hours! Don’t let the relationship go cold and run the risk of them forgetting who you are.
- Thank your host and good bag vendors – Your host worked countless hours putting on the event. If you can tell them in person how amazing the event was and thank them for the hard work. If you don’t get a chance to meet the host in person, send them an email or even message them through social media. If you get a goody bag with donated items from local vendors, make sure to take pictures and share them on social media. Show the items in your home, in use, and tag them. Send them an email or social media message and thank them for their generosity and tell them what you love about their products.