Calendars are again filling up with invitations to network now that summer is past. Do you make an effort to prepare for your networking events, or dash out the door at the last minute? A little preparation goes a long way toward a better meeting and building a stronger network.
Countdown to Network
Here’s a simple countdown to your event to help you maximize networking results with a minimal amount of preparation.
3 Days Out—Invite Others
Who else would be interested in attending the networking event? Forward the invitation to some friends who would find the event relevant. They’ll appreciate your thinking of them, and you’ll feel more comfortable seeing a familiar face at the event. Share on your social networks as well. Even better, offer to give someone a ride if they live near you. It’s a chance to get to know them better, and to be a little earth-friendly.
Also, go ahead and sign-up for the event. Many events charge a higher fee if you wait until the day of the event to register.
2 Days Out—Check Business Cards
Do you have enough business cards for the event? Many people disparage using ink on paper in this digital age. I actually like business cards because they become my “to do” list for connecting on LinkedIn afterwards. If you discover you don’t have enough cards, you can get a quick reprint from a retail store such as Staples. Just order and design online, and you can pick up replacement cards within a day.
1 Day Out—Decide Who to Meet
Here’s where the most important network preparation occurs. Why are you attending the event in the first place? Is it to meet new customers? Look for business partners? Find a job? Fill a job?
Who at the event might help you meet your objective? So many events now use online registrations such as Meetup, Eventbrite or Facebook events that show names, titles, company names and even pictures of attendees. Pick three to five people you want to meet and make that your game plan.
These online systems can also help refresh your memory. Does an attendee’s name sound familiar, but you can’t quite place them? Check out their bio and photo on LinkedIn. Does a face look familiar? Click through to their bio. You can avoid an awkward introduction to someone you’ve forgotten who remembers you quite well. (It happens!) Pro tip: that’s why it’s always best to say “nice to see you” instead of “nice to meet you.”
Same Day—Read Current News
If someone asks you “What’s new?”, you don’t want a lousy answer like “Not much.” Make sure you spend 10 minutes catching up on the latest news on a topic your networking group follows. You’ll at least have a better answer to “what’s new?” and may get into a very interesting conversation.
Finally, make plans to arrive early at the event. It’s easier to meet people before the event, since many leave quickly afterwards. You may even have an opportunity for some valuable one-on-one time with the speaker and event hosts.
That’s the simple networking countdown. As the boxing announcer might say it, “Let’s get rrrrrrready to nnnnnnetwork!
What’s your tip for most effective networking?