Networking is a lot of fun, but it does involve some preparation. Here is a general run through of my routine
1. Identify where you are going to network- We have already covered How to Find The Right Networking Event For You in my previous post.
2. Business Cards- always have business cards with you when attending. There are exceptions to this rule. I will go into more detail about what your business card should have in a future post.
3. Elevator Pitch– An elevator pitch is a quick spiel that in a few seconds tells people what you do. I will go into more detail about what types of elevator pitches there are and how you can create one for yourself.
4. Name Tag- I personally have my own name tag I take to events- I have several in fact for the different organisations I may represent! These are incredibly important as they allow people you have never met to automatically know who you are and who you represent. It helps to break the ice of meeting someone new if they already know who you are before they meet you.
5. Dress to Impress- You only get one chance at a first impression! How you present yourself is the first impression people will have of you. Dress to suit the event. Again, I will go into more detail about how to dress and present yourself for your event in a later post.
6. Cleanliness and odour- you might think this is a no brainer, but everyone is different. What is acceptable to one person is not necessarily acceptable to another. We will discuss this in a future post. But remember you are trying to connect with others and how others perceive you from how you present yourself could damage your personal brand (we will discuss personal brand later also).
7. Eating- I generally try to eat before I go to a networking event. Many networking events serve finger foods such as dim sims, small sandwiches, mini spring rolls, mini quiches etc with dipping sauces. This is eaten standing up while networking. Your only source of cleaning is a napkin! Eat before you go so you’re not talking with a mouth full of food; shaking hands and handling business cards with oily fingers; and spilling sweet chilli sauce over yourself and others; hunger pains from lack of food- all while holding a drink and other documents.
8. Drinking-I have a general rule that I don’t drink alcohol at work events. One is to do with the smell of beer on your breathe. The other is at some events, you may have one too many and be the person that does something stupid everyone will remember (personal brand!). Also, avoid glasses filled with ice unless sipping through a straw. A glass with ice can be embarrassing if it makes the drink spill on you when you’re about to take a sip.
9. Logistics- Work out how you are getting there and how long it will take. Will you be paying for parking? What time does public transport run? How far do you have to walk and is it up hill? Knowing in advance could save you problems later. Don’t forget your return trip also!
10. Public Speaking and Practice- I say public speaking as you are likely to be meeting people on a ‘cold call’ basis. Some people dread talking to people they don’t know. Don’t give up if you don’t feel you did well your first time or you got butterflies in your stomach when talking to people. Learning how to network comes with practice. Your spiel, your approach, timing, when to be serious or to be funny, how to read people. We will go over this more in a later post.
I hope this helps you prepare for your next networking event. We will discuss the above items in another post.
~ Damien Foley