Attending a professional networking event can
be like going to a party at a stranger's house. You scan the crowd,
searching for friendly faces, hoping you know at least one other person.
When you realize you have to work the event solo, you suddenly feel shy
and jittery, especially if working the room doesn't come naturally to
a deep breath and dry those sweaty palms. First, remember that other
professionals at the event are feeling exactly the way you are. Then,
develop a plan. Focusing on specific goals will help you to check your
nervousness at the door.
Here are some strategies to help you navigate your next professional networking event successfully:
Make a plan Before
the event, make a list of targets - the people you know you want to
meet. Most conferences and other meet-and-greet events use the Web or
social media to publish a list of attendees, which can be helpful in
your preparation. Many events also use hashtags on Twitter so attendees
can connect before and during the event.
some brief notes on what you know about a target contact that could be
relevant to your discussion with that person. For example, perhaps you
read a person's blog or viewed her webinar. This type of information
gives you an advantage not only because you can break the ice with a new
contact more easily but also because the person will realize you
sincerely want to meet.
your list of targets into an "event card" - a simple list in a notebook
or on your smartphone - that you can use to make notes about the people
you meet and what you discuss. Don't take notes during a conversation,
though. The other person may feel uncomfortable if he feels like you're
conducting an interview.
Help contacts connect with you You
need to show your targets why they should know you. This means you
should rehearse your introductions and tailor them for each key person.
Example 1: "Hi,
I'm Ann. I'm an accountant with XYZ firm. Our firm does some work for
your company. I've seen you copied on some of our correspondence, and I
wanted to introduce myself since we've never actually met in person."
Example 2: "Hi,
I'm Ann. I'm an accountant at XYZ firm. I believe you know my manager,
Sue Smith. I noticed you two are connected on LinkedIn. How do you know
Example 3: "Hi,
I'm Ann. I'm an accountant at XYZ firm. I saw you speak at last year's
annual conference. I really enjoyed your presentation. Will you be
speaking at the next event?"
that there's a fine line between coming across as "all business" and
being seen as a real, approachable human being. While it's important to
be prepared when you meet someone new who could be important to you
professionally, don't rehearse too much. You want conversations to flow
naturally after your introduction. Just smile, be casual and talk to
that person as you would if you were building a relationship with a new
Don't wait too long to follow up A
day or two after the networking event, review your event card and the
business cards you collected, and begin your follow-up. A brief email to
say hello and remind a new contact about the conversation you had or a request to connect via LinkedIn should
suffice. Don't call a contact unless you were encouraged to do so, or
you both hit it off so well you know a phone call would be welcome.
you don't hear back from a contact after two attempts, more than likely
that person is not interested in keeping in touch. Don't take it
personally. Not every connection you make is going to lead to a
meaningful business relationship.
your energy instead on those relationships you sense are going to be
the most fruitful. If you approached the event strategically, you'll no
doubt have more than enough interesting new contacts to add to your