5 Networking Event Tips for Entrepreneurs

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I recently attended Chicago’s “Network After Work” 5th year anniversary event at the Hard Rock Cafe. There were several hundred professionals there for an evening of networking. (photo credit: Be Strategic PR)

Have you ever been to a networking event and felt like it was a waste of time? It’s important to be strategic about what networking opportunities you invest your time and money in.

It seems as though everyone is hosting a networking event these days; thus, don’t get trapped into going if you don’t belong there. As you select events, take into consideration if your target customer, vendor, or ideal business connection will be there. They should be your priority. You will be invited to a lot of events as an entrepreneur, but it’s no fun to be at an event that will not allow you to make a meaningful connection or allow you to reconnect with another like-minded professional from your industry.  Below are 5 tips to keep in mind before you make plans to attend your next networking event.

  1. Be prepared. Always bring a large amount of business cards so that you don’t run out. Carry a pen in case you need to take notes during the conversation. For example, sometimes someone I’m speaking with may make a suggestion that I may want to check out later or sometimes I want to jot down a few reminders to myself about the person I am speaking with or the company they own or work for. Also, know your elevator pitch. Be prepared to say what you do, how you do it, and why you are unique in less than 5 minutes.
  2. Be presentable. First impressions can make or break a new business relationship. Make sure you look presentable. Even if the event is causal, find a way to stand out. Fashion is a great way to be memorable. Consider wearing a statement piece of jewelry or a bold color. If the event is immediately after work and you don’t have time to go home, freshen up at work and bring mints to the event so your breath is fresh.
  3. Be polite. Look the person you are speaking with in the eye. Give them your undivided attention. Unless you and the other person are about to follow each other on social media at that very moment, put your phone away. As it relates to conversation, make sure it isn’t all about you. Create a sense of balance so that you learn about the other person and their business. Don’t monopolize anyone’s time. After you’ve had a nice conversation, say thank you and allow them to meet someone else. If you participate in a group conversation, try not to be awkward. Find a way to politely incorporate everyone into the mix.
  4. Follow-up. Make sure to follow-up with the people you meet in a reasonable time frame. Within a few business days of the event, reach out to them via email. Follow them on their social media channels, if they are listed on their business card or business website. Connect professionally first. I personally don’t think it’s cool to immediately request someone on their personal Facebook page if you’ve made no attempt to connect with them on their brand’s social media channels.
  5. Invest in someone else. One mistake people often make is using networking to simply use other people. It’s more impactful to genuinely build a relationship with someone by learning about them and finding ways to help them, instead of beginning the relationship by asking someone to do something for you. When someone takes the time to help me (unprompted) I am more likely to want to help them in the future. When you give, the rewards are greater than when you consistently expect someone to do something for you.

Happy Networking!  Wishing you all the best, Business Rock Stars!

Be strategic!

What event networking tips would you add to this list? Tweet them to me @bestrategicPR or leave a comment below. #bestrategicPR