Dress the Part
Everyone has seen that guy at a networking event that shows up in shorts looking like he just came from the gym or the beach. People won’t take you seriously if you don’t take yourself seriously. Wear the proper business or professional attire to make a good impression. Bring plenty of business cards and stow them away in a pocket or someplace else that will be easily accessible during the networking event so that you aren’t digging and searching for the business cards when someone asks you for one.
It’s obvious when you’re talking to someone and they aren’t listening to you, so when you interact with someone at a networking event, really listen to what they’re saying. You may be surprised what you learn and the true connection that you can make.
Know Your Pitch
Be ready when someone asks you what you do! Have a short pitch prepared so that you exude confidence when talking about your profession and your specific role. Be prepared for follow up questions as well, because you’re likely to get some. The more local networking events you go to, the more prepared you’ll be because you’ll start to notice patterns in the types of questions people ask. You can even tweak your pitch to preemptively answer some of these questions, just don’t make your pitch too long – you don’t want to spend too much time talking about yourself.
I think the hardest thing about a networking event is actually just walking up to someone and starting to talk to them because people are rarely alone, so you end up having to assimilate into a group that’s already talking. However, this is also the most important part of networking! When I’m at networking events, I just remind myself that everyone is there for the same reason, so there’s no reason to be anxious or embarrassed by walking up to a new person and starting a conversation. This also gets easier as you attend more networking events!
I’m terrible with names, but that just isn’t okay at a networking event! When I first started going to professional marketing networking events, I would struggle to remember people’s names and never make any lasting connections. But then I discovered a trick… People are usually wearing nametags, so I try to use those to really reinforce names in my mind. As someone is talking to me I repeat their name over and over I my head and then when I’m done talking to them I use their name to end the conversation (ex. “It was great talking to you Bob!”) to make it really stick.
Ask for a Card
Getting a business card is the most important thing to remember, because without that you won’t have any way of staying in touch with the person that you've met. Ask for a business card and take the time to look at it for a second before sticking it in your pocket so that if you get a bunch of business cards, then you’ll know who belongs to which card the next day.
Follow Up After
The best way to make a good impression is to follow up after the event with an email letting the person know that you enjoyed meeting them. If you can incorporate some personal details into your follow up, that will help them to remember you. Mention something you discussed or something that stuck out to you about their business or role. You’re much more likely to establish a lasting impression if you demonstrate that your meeting had an impression on you and wasn’t just some casual meeting in passing at an event.
There are a lot of great local events no matter where you are, so use these tips to build your confidence and get out there and network!
By Kate Pierce. Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!