Dos and Don’ts of Summer Networking

By Raymond Rahbar, CEO, MakeOffices

Summer may be wedding season, but in Chicago, it’s also the season for a different type of special event: professional networking. There’s a little bit of everything for those seeking to connect and grow their business, from events at the street-side and rooftop patios around the city to organizations hosting Cubs gatherings to the many industry conferences that bring in potential colleagues from all over the world.

There’s no better time to build business relationships than the summer — as long as you don’t fall prey to some common networking pitfalls. After all, it’s all about making a good first impression.

At MakeOffices, we host monthly networking events, and many of our members also take advantage of our spaces to hold events of their own. Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way from our members — some of the best networkers around:

  • DO your homework. Look into who the other attendees will be at an event in advance. Prepare a mental list of whom you’d like to talk to or meet, and think about what your goals are for the event. This allows you to be efficient with your time and also enables you to better connect with the attendees you meet.
  • DO be selective with your time. Instead of having less meaningful conversations with more people, focus on having stronger conversations with a smaller pool of people. Meaningful conversations have the potential to turn into a second meeting over coffee or lunch, so opt for quality over quantity.
  • DON’T drink too much. It’s an obvious one, but many entrepreneurs — young and old — have embarrassing stories about times when they let alcohol do the talking and damaged their reputations. Don’t let the free refreshments or the open bar distract you from making connections.
  • DO attend a wide variety of events, but DON’T do something if it’s way outside your comfort zone. It’s better to attend fewer events that you are comfortable with than to put yourself in a situation you won’t be your best in. Familiarize yourself with the upcoming events in your area, and figure out which ones would better suit you. If you get sea sick, skip the boat cruise; if sports aren’t your thing, don’t strike out with potential contacts who live for their teams. With so many options, you’re sure to find an event that offers the right blend of people and activity.
  • DO raise your name recognition and bring ‘old school’ business cards. Networking usually involves many people with the same goals having similar conversations, so it’s important to make yourself stand out. Using business cards is a great first step. According to this recent Entrepreneur column, even though the business world is quickly becoming a digital-dominated world, the use of the business card is still a networking staple and will not become obsolete any time soon.
  • DON’T forget to research who is actually hosting the event. Knowing the type of organization that is hosting the event lets you anticipate who your fellow attendees will be and also helps you prepare what you should wear and the types of questions you should ask. Knowing information about the hosts also helps create good relationships, and making connections with these organizers and influencers can lead to other opportunities.
  • DON’T just move on when the event is done; actively follow-up with your new connections. Sending a follow-up email or connecting on LinkedIn with new contacts will remind them of you and keep you top of mind after the event is over. Plus, this simple trick shows that you are serious about your business.
  • DO participate in the social media conversation about an event. Using the appropriate hashtags, make sure the content and photos you share stay professional. Joining the conversation shows the hosts and your followers your enthusiasm and once again helps you to stand out among the many people who attended the event.

If you keep these tips in mind, your next networking event is sure to be a success. Networking doesn’t have to be stressful, so have fun out there, and good luck building those business connections!

This blog post originally appeared on Built In Chicago.