How to Rock Professional Networking Events

Simple networking tips to make it stashing a few business cards behind your name tag.

Networking Tip: Stash a few business cards behind your name tag.

I’m a recruiter, coach and speaker, which means I make my living by talking to people, but I really don’t like professional networking events and schmoozing.

It often feels awkward and uncomfortable to me because I’m actually pretty shy. Go figure.

But meeting strangers is a fact of life when you’re building a business or a career, so here are a few networking tips I’ve picked up that make it a little easier.

Go where the people you want to meet hang out.

Think creatively. If you’re looking for a job as a virtual assistant, do less schmoozing with other assistants, and check out some conferences about online marketing, where you’ll find entrepreneurs who hire virtual assistants.

Begin networking before  you need to find a job.

Networking should be an ongoing thing, not just a job search strategy. Contacts who’ve known you for a year are going to be more likely to go out of their way for you than someone you met five minutes ago, don’t you think?

It’s okay go with a friend, but don’t be afraid to go alone.

Sure, it’s nice to have company, but don’t get stopped by being solo. It’s just a few quick business interactions and sharing a little information with people, many of whom feel awkward, too. If you do go with a friend, don’t hide together. Split up so you can meet new people.

Bring memorable resume business cards.

If you’re on the job hunt, make a resume business card. When your card is noticed, you are remembered. I use Overnight Prints for my cards, which have my photo, distinctive rounded corners and a free  glossy coating that makes them feel expensive. As a job seeker, include your name, phone, email, career focus and positioning, and the URL of your online resume or LinkedIn profile. Adding a happy photo makes people remember you better.

Keep cards at your fingertips at all times.

Carry your cards in your right pocket and other people’s cards in your left pocket, so it’s easy and you stay organized. If you’re at an event where your name tag is in a plastic case (like in the picture), stash a few cards behind your name card for easy access.

Put a non-leaking pen in your pocket.

When someone gives you their card, make a quick note on the back about what you talked about. what they looked like or what you want to follow up about later. Otherwise, you end up with a pocket of who-the-heck-was-that cards (I have a whole drawer full of them… kind of useless!)

Have a small note pad to write down ideas and information.

When someone shares a movie recommendation, book or blog to read or name of the person they can introduce to you, you don’t want to count on your memory. Write things down. People like when you respect their recommendations and ideas, and now you have a chance to follow up with later to thank them for the tip.

Make an easy-to-read name tag.

If you have to write your own your name tag, use clear letters that can be read from a distance. Write your first name big and bold and include your company name or message (“Marketer Seeking Project”) underneath. Place it  high on your right shoulder (people read left to right) and close to your face so people can it read quickly without having to stare at your chest, which is both awkward and distracting.

Look picture perfect (but be comfortable).

Many networking events have a photographer there, and you want to be happy with how you look if you appear in a photo later. Wear shoes that are comfortable to stand in and something with pockets for business cards and notes, so you can keep your hands free for shaking hands and taking notes. A brightly colored shirt helps people find you in the room.

Practice your introduction.

Using conversational language, write yourself a two-sentence script that really communicates why you’re there and practice it until it’s easy for you to say without sounding rehearsed. Don’t worry about repeating yourself; better to say it too many times than not enough.

Do not get tipsy.

Liquid courage is a bad idea in business. It’s better to have a club soda with lime and save the cocktails for after the event.

Talk to people.

Yes, that’s obvious, but it’s also kind of scary for many of us, so here’s a networking tip that makes it easy: walk up to someone who is standing alone (and maybe nervous, too), introduce yourself and say, “What made you give up your evening to be at this event?” Then share your own reason and what you hope to get out of it, and you’re on your way.

Tell people how to help you.

Networking works because people want to help each other, so make it easy and tell them exactly what kind of help you want. “I’m here because I’m looking for ideas for new marketing projects” can get people thinking with focus for you. Write everything down and follow up.

Think of ways you can help others, and then do it.

The more you do for others, the more they’ll do for you. Look for something you might offer in different encounters. Maybe it’s forwarding the name of your chiropractor, or emailing an interesting link about that new band. Real connections take several interaction.

Introduce at least two people to someone else.

You’ll meet people who really should meet someone you met earlier, so play matchmaker and introduce the two of them. What goes around comes around, and they’ll see you as a connector.

Follow up when you get home.

While it’s all still fresh in your mind, send an email thanking the person who gave you that valuable tip, and a personalized LinkedIn invitation to connect to everyone whose card you brought back.

Not everyone you meet is going to open doors for you, but keep at it because a brief connection at a meeting can easily turn into a valuable introduction to the perfect job for you.



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