Business networks and networking events are the holy grail when it comes to making professional contacts. There are few other occasions when hundreds of other interested and motivated people from within your field will come together for the sheer purpose of getting to know one another and finding mutually compatible opportunities.
Attending, or indeed hosting, a networking event is a great way to make contacts, but there are a few things you can do that will ensure you not only get a wallet full of business cards but generate genuine and long-lasting leads.
Understanding that the more you put into networking, the more you get out will help set the event into perspective. Merely showing up and shaking hands with a few people will have marginal results. If you have a precise aim and objective insight, however, it will pay to approach the event with a plan in mind. Here we take a look at some of the most important things you can do to maximise the outcomes and engage the people you want to impress.
Get company literature printed
Before attending any event, you should always make sure that you have enough business cards and literature to hand out to other interested parties. If you are representing your company at a stall, consider using suppliers that offer a brochure printing service such as print24. By utilising brochure printing you can create a comprehensive booklet containing all of your core business principles and attributes that is easy to read and hand out.
Do your research
Before any networking event, it is essential to do various bits of research. Establish, for instance, the full extent of who is attending the event and who it is precisely that you would like to meet. Decide whether there are specific representatives from other companies that you want to get to know, or whether it is important to make a broad sweep of the room. If there are talks taking place, thoroughly research these and prioritise those that you most want to attend.
Preparation is vital for all manner of things in life, but especially when it comes to appearing professional and composed. Adequately preparing encompasses several different things: making sure that you are dressed appropriately, that you know the names and a little bit of background on the individuals and company representatives that you want to meet with and all manner of other small details. Of course, factoring in elements such as public speaking tips can be incredibly handy as well when it comes to speaking to groups.
Be present and focused
Being present in conversation is arguably the most critical thing you can do to make a positive impression on the person you are speaking with. Demonstrating not only an active form of listening to that assures your partner you are engaged and interested in what they are saying, but being able to formulate important and acute questions in response to the topic demonstrates a high level of presence. Alongside this, basic etiquette such as maintaining eye contact and not fiddling with your hands all help build a positive and focused impression.
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Arguably as important as introducing yourself to someone is how you then follow up. At a networking event, people are making hundreds of connections, so you need to do everything you can to stand out from the crowd. The next day filter through the business cards and brochures you collected and decide what the most valuable contacts you made were – remember these might not always be the people in the most senior positions. Reach out to individuals on sites such as LinkedIn or send a follow-up email to discuss any next steps.