Are you looking for ways to grow your network? One commonly overlooked way is the networking event. Read on for how to use these events to create lasting connections.
The networking event, while can be scary - at least for us introverts! - is a great place to create in-person and memorable connections. Social Media is great and should be part of your Networking Strategy, but I urge you to find at least one Networking Event to go to. By attending these events you are able to develop strong connections that will have long lasting benefits. A connection today could mean a new career tomorrow, next month or even a few years down the line.
How to Find the Right Networking Event
If you are in Human Resources then a local Professional Engineer (P.Eng) event is not the place for you. Many industries and career types have their own associations so do some research and pick one that is most suitable. Next, find out if they have some local chapters with events in the city (or cities) where you want to work. Most associations will allow non registered members to go, so if the association has a hefty membership fee then you can still attend and then join later if it makes sense.
How to Prepare for the Networking Event
So you have now registered for an event, now it is time to prepare.
How to Create Connections at the Event
You are dressed for success, elevator speech practiced and contact details at the ready so now it is time to make those connections! There tend to be two different types of events - a cocktail style where everyone stands around and the seated dinner style. For a seated event, approach a table and ask if you can join. Settle in and then introduce yourself around. If cocktail, approach an ongoing conversation and stand in the group silently (unless you have something to add, then go ahead) and during a lull in the conversation introduce yourself to the group.
Once you find somone you would like in your network, demonstrate an interest and ask them some questions-about themselves, their career, their successes-and when appropriate segue into your elevator speech while handing over your business card. If the conversation allows add some specific details about them (where they work, their career path, etc) that you would like to emulate yourself. As the conversation comes to an end let them know you appreciate their time to speak with you and that you hope you can stay in touch.
After The Event
So most people either ignore or forget about this next crucial step - moving the connection to social media and email. First, if you got their business card send them a quick email saying how much you enjoyed your conversation with them and express an interest in keeping contact. Look them up on LinkedIn and send a connection request and any other social media platform they may be on. If you didn't get a business card, send the email through LinkedIn with your connection request. Give yourself a pat on the back on a job well done!