Business owners who make an effort to connect with other like-minded people are more likely to find support and grow their businesses.
But before you randomly start signing up for networking events in your neighborhood, be sure you go in strategically, with a plan.
After all, attending a business networking event is an investment of your valuable time, something that is a very limited resource for any entrepreneur.
Here are some steps to help you prepare for a networking event, so you get the most out of your investment…
Reach out to the organizer
At the very least, connecting with the networking event’s organizer is good form.
Make an effort to thank the organizer for their invitation and let them know you are looking forward to supporting their event and meeting them in person.
A good organizer will know that the success of their event is contingent on the attendees making meaningful new connections. So the more the organizer knows about you, the more likely she will be able to introduce you to people who would mutually benefit from meeting you.
It’s a win-win all around.
Find out who else is going
Once you’ve connected with the event organizer, you can ask about the other attendees.
Alternatively, if the event is posted on a public platform (such as Facebook or Meetup), it will be easy for you to find out who else will be attending, and you can then learn more about these people by visiting their websites or social media business pages.
While you definitely don’t want to “stalk” anyone, you can use this basic public information to figure out who you want to zero in on when you attend the event. Make it a personal goal to meet 3-5 people you have pre-screened.
You likely won’t have time to meet everyone, and your intention going into the business meeting should be leaning more towards making a handful of meaningful connections, as opposed to a large number of superficial ones.
You can connect with these people online before the event if you feel comfortable enough to do so, or you can just think about some topics of conversation for when you finally meet them face-to-face.
In any case, having an idea of the crowd you will be walking into will give you an advantage.
Practice your elevator pitch
You only get one chance at making a first impression, so don’t blow it!
When someone at a business networking event asks you to introduce yourself, you need to be ready with a well thought-out response, not a rambling, confusing, boring autobiography.
Make sure you perfect an elevator pitch before setting foot in a business networking event. An elevator pitch is a concise, well-delivered statement about who you are and what you’re looking for. A great elevator pitch will lead to further questions and conversation.
You may need to customize your elevator pitch for different networking events, depending on who your target audience is. This is yet another reason why it’s a good idea to know in advance who will be attending the event.
Figure out what you’re going to wear
Speaking of first impressions, be mindful of what you’re going to wear to the networking event.
Your choice of wardrobe should be a direct reflection of your business and personal brand.
When dressing for a networking event, make sure you understand the distinction between presenting yourself as a business owner versus dressing like a person who works in your business. For example, know the difference between presenting yourself as a fitness trainer versus someone who owns and manages a gym and has her own product line of nutrition bars.
You would never go into a business meeting unprepared, so by the same reasoning, you should never attend a networking event unprepared.
Remember to bring plenty of business cards with you, and make sure they are fresh and crisp, not crumpled and faded as if they’ve been sitting at the bottom of your laptop bag for six months.
It’s also a good idea to bring something to write notes with, as well as your calendar (electronic or otherwise) so you can schedule follow-up meetings on the spot, should the opportunity present itself.
Know exactly where you’re going
Nothing will throw of your game more than showing up late, out of breath, and disoriented.
You want to enter the room confident and in control of yourself. This all goes back to making an excellent first impression.
This means you need to be on time for the event (in other words, show up early). Map out the location and figure out directions and transportation well in advance. Make accommodations for traffic, weather, and any other potential obstacles.
This last one might surprise you. But it’s important.
Resist the urge to go to a networking event hungry, even if you know food is going to be served.
Eating at a networking event often means you’ll be distracted or that your hands will be occupied by something other than shaking hands or taking notes. It means your mouth will be too full for meaningful conversation.
Feed yourself beforehand so that you are fueled up to present the best version of yourself. If there is a café near the event location, show up early and have a snack or lunch first. This will ensure that you arrive fed, as well as on time.
In other words, do not go to an event with the primary objective to get fed, because you are there to work and network!
Need a hand with your business brand? Contact Kim Speed at Purple Moon Creative today!