How To Rock Your Next Networking Event
Networking events in your field can be a great way to meet new people and start professional relationships with potential clients. When you attend an event, you should be on your a-game to make the best impression on everyone you talk to. Luckily today we can rely on more than only our business card to help us build our network during an event.
Before the event
In the run-up to an event, it is wise to form a list of people you want to talk to. There are all sorts of ways to find out who is attending. Meetup already provides good lists of people who signed-up. This helps you to create a clear plan of what you want to get out of the event. There are multiple ways to do this:
Prepare your message
Get ready to tell your story over and over again. You need to make sure that new people you meet understand what you do in less than 30 seconds. It is therefore advised to put together a 30 second pitch in which you explain what you do. You will notice that once you’ve told the speech a couple of times, the next one will come naturally. The Internet is filled with guides on how to put together a 30 second pitch, this is a nice overview of tips!
Create a buzz
A great way to interact with your target audience is to communicate what events you are attending on social media. Engage with people within a week before the event and make sure your social network knows about it. Mention why you are going to this specific event and what you hope to get out of it. See if you can find out if any personal contacts are attending and agree on meeting them there. Sharing the event with your social network will also generate goodwill with the organization of the event.
You can start interactions with comments like: “Who will I see there?”. Always tag the event or attendees, and make use or relating hashtags.
Another way to find out who is interested in the event is to see who is talking about it online. You can have an IFTTT applet running, collecting all Twitter handles for the event hashtag in a spreadsheet. That way you can later hyper target event attendees with Twitter ads because you can upload a list of Twitter handles to target.
Remember, everyone who is attending a networking event wants to extend their professional network. It might seem bold, but why not try to start communicating in advance. A LinkedIn invite with a simple comment like “I noticed we are both attending Network Event X next week, I hope to talk to you there”, is a friendly way to start interactions with potential relationships.
During the event
Events are evolving. Technology has made its entrance into the event-business. There is a lot of valuable data to collect for event organizers. What do people do, what do they buy, where do they go, what did they find interesting and what not. There are more and more ways to create the best schedule to see your preferred presentations or to put together the most time-effective route through the event. Also extending your network is past the stage of collecting business cards.
Dutch tech start-up Shake On introduced smart bracelets that events organizers can buy for their guests. It is very simple: attendees get personal assigned bracelet at the entrance of the event. The bracelet contains personal data such as contact details. When you wear the bracelet and you shake hands with someone who is also wearing it, the bracelet will exchange contact details. This means that you no longer have to hand out and collect business cards. When you get home, you just check your account and find the contact details of all the people you met during the event.
Learn what other technologies will change networking events in the future from this expert poll.
Make sure you actually go and talk to people at the event. Join an existing group and engage in their conversation. Listen to them first before you speak, and show interest. Expect to do some of your best networking near food/drink points, toilets, wardrobe or smoking areas. Do not forget to connect with people you approached about the event beforehand. Make sure you know what they look like. It’s important to have most relevant information about the organisers and key people before the event and what might be an interesting topic of conversation. And in the worst case scenario, just talk about actualities, or the topics presented at the event. Remember, you have a lot to offer so you should be always communicating with confidence!
After the event
When you get home you hopefully have a long list of names and phone numbers of interesting people you talked to during the event. Make sure you don’t leave them hanging. If you haven’t done it before, connect to them on Linkedin and send them a follow up message. If there are potential clients, make sure to give them a call within a week after the event. They should remember you and you can pick the conversation up where you left it during the event.
Communicate what the event brought for you. Be positive, tell your network what you learned and who you have met. This will be great promotion for the event, the people you are mentioning and of course yourself.
Events are an effective way to extend your network, communicate with your target audience or gain market insights. However you should not come unprepared. A good preparation can help you engage more effectively. Fortunately there are multiple tactics, tools and gadgets that can help you before, during and after the event.
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