Whether you love networking or absolutely hate it, you’ll need to network to survive in the professional world today. San Jose Statue University’s School of Information defines networking as “an information exchange between you and another person. It involves establishing relationships with people who can help you advance your career in many ways.”
While you can network anywhere and with anyone, most people are utilizing networking events as their preferred way to put themselves out there. Networking events are where people gather together to learn more about other business professionals usually in the same field, (and there’s usually some food if that’s incentive to go).
Now that you know what networking events are, how should you behave at one?
Dress professionally – While this may be a bit obvious, some people don’t know how to dress business professional. Act like it’s a job interview, because it practically is. You are meeting people that could be potential clients and possible referrals, so make a good first impression with your outfit.
Bring resumes and business cards – People can write your information down in their phone, but it’s also better for them to have a physical copy to refer to later. You look more prepared, and it shows that you thought about how you wanted to be perceived.
Watch your drinking and eating – Again, these are potential partners and you can’t shake someone’s hand if you have a plate in one hand and a drink in another. In addition, if you drink too much you could turn people off. Even if you don’t get drunk, each drink can impact how you behave. So think twice before filling up.
Talk to as many people as possible – You want to get your name and business out there, and the best way to do that is to talk to more people. Go up to people who aren’t involved in other conversations and strike one up. Introduce people you may already know to people you just met at that event. Set up follow up conversations with people you want to talk to later. (One of our partners, Ken Seawell, is a fan of the 3-foot rule where you talk to anyone that comes within 3-feet of you.)
Follow up with people – its good to check back in with people you meet. They may have gotten busy and meant to call or they may be waiting for a time to meet up. Either way, it’s nice to let people know you remember who they are and what they do. Even if you know you’re not going to do business with that person, they may have other people they can refer you to.
I hope that this article has taught you a little more about networking, and some tips for your first, second, or tenth networking event. Remember, it’s never too late to get yourself out there and start networking!