After I had attended my first 3 networking events, I started thinking how to make each event more productive and successful for me. I especially wanted to cut down on the embarrassment of forgetting a pen, business cards, or something else unforeseen and to improve my self confidence.
I had attended several in the past, but after a 3 year hiatus, I attended an event with my husband that he asked me to attend. The first event I attended, I remember well. It was the Summer Networking Bash 2011 put on by Jennifer Beale. It was an awesome event and again I was hooked.
Now, every time I speak with someone seeking to broaden their exposure or increase their contacts, I suggest networking events. Whether it is a large event like Summer Bash 2012 which I learned had about 1000 people eager to introduce themselves to you and learn what you do or a smaller more intimate event, whether it is speed-networking or open networking, there are a few things you want to do to make sure you will be prepare. This checklist will limit your distractions and help keep you focused.
- Visualize your desired outcomes. Yes, I know it sounds hokey, but trust me. One rule I live by is to visualize my desired outcomes in every situation before in enter the situation.
- Pick up your dry cleaning or get the laundry done (folded, hung up etc) the day before. Inevitably something comes up to delay you and prevents you from looking the part and acting the part. Getting these tasks done the day before is a great idea.
- Eat about 30 minutes before you leave the house. I know this should be obvious, but you want to have food in your system before you start drinking.
- Carry plenty of business cards. I am always surprised when people “run out” of business cards during an event.
- Keep an emergency kit in the car. Mine contains a box of business cards, a box of my latest promotional piece, perfume, a pair of pants – could be jeans – and a shirt, a toothbrush and tooth paste. This kit has been helpful when I was just out shopping and bump into someone that turns into a business opportunity, or when at an event and something spills on my clothes.
- Carry a smartphone or notebook. I promise that this isn’t stalky, but when I meet a good contact, I will have someone take a pic of us with my phone, then before the event is over, make detailed notes about our conversation. If you don’t have a smart phone, then use a discrete notebook.
- Pick an isolation spot. OK, I will be the first to admit that this doesn’t always work. But when it does, it works well. When I arrive at an event, I pick a spot that is away from most people, but doesn’t look strange for me to be there. I visit this spot every 30 minutes or so, and stay there only for 10 minutes. I have found that more often than not, someone will stumble by and strike up an introduction.
- On your way to the event, listen to your special CD of motivational music. This should not be music that brings you down or reminds you of a negative time. My motivational music is a awesome Christian CD I compiled. It’s fast paced, motivating and I find that it puts my head in a place that no other music puts me. Oh yes, and please whatever the music is that you pic. If you can sing along loudly, even better!
- Lastly, once parked at the venue, rehearse your elevator pitch three or four times.
By this time, you are pumped up, you smell good, you have food in your system, you look sharp, your head is in the right space and your voice is warmed up, you know that you have a back up in the car just in case something goes wrong and you have loads of business cards. This is my checklist that I rely on for effective networking. I invite you to try it and share with me your feedback.