How to Get Ready for a Networking Event

You have decided to attend a networking event.  Good for you!  By building your network, you can get the inside scoop on industries and companies, and you can find out about positions before they are even advertised.  Also, considering that most employers prefer to hire employees that they already know, networking is a smart move.

However, actually going to a networking event can be intimidating.  You may be afraid that you’ll end up sitting alone in a corner, or even worse- that you’ll say or do the wrong thing and make a fool of yourself.  Take a deep breath and read these tips to help you get ready to network:

Plan your outfit.  Find out what the dress code is for the event.  If you aren’t sure, call the organizer or the host.  Choose an outfit that is both comfortable and professional.  When you feel good about the way that you look, it is easier to put yourself out there and meet people.  

Practice your elevator speech.  When you attend a networking event, you know that people will ask you what you do.  You don’t want to stutter your way through an answer.  Practice your professional introduction in front of your friends and family and ask them for their feedback.  When you are comfortable introducing yourself in a professional setting, you are better able to make those important connections.

Research the host of the event.  It is a good idea to know something about the organization that is hosting the event.  Review their website and become familiar with what they do.  In some cases, you may be able to see who is planning to attend the event.  If so, look at the companies that will be represented and see if any interest you.  Make an effort to connect with anyone who works at one of your target companies.    

Set goals for the event.  You are able to achieve more when you set goals for each event that you attend.  Your goal could be to connect with a particular person, to set up an information interview, or it could be as simple as meeting three new people.  When you have established goals for networking events, it ensures that you approach the event strategically, making it more likely to be beneficial to you.

Come prepared with questions to ask people.  Many people dread those awkward silences that often take place when you meet new people.  One way that you can avoid those silences is to have a few questions or conversation topics in mind.  For example, you could say, “How long have you been a member of this organization?  What other events have you attended?”  or, “What line of work are you in?” or you can even ask for their opinion about the event that you are attending, for example, “What did you think of the keynote address?” or even, “Did you try the pasta?”.  It doesn’t really matter what you say, the point is to get the conversation started.

Bring business cards or resumes.  When you make an important business contact, you want to have your business cards or resume on hand.  If you are prepared, you are able to take those connections to the next level.

Give yourself a pep talk.  The great thing about confidence is that you can fake it.  If you don’t feel like you own the room, pretend that you do, and nobody will know the difference.  Before you walk into the event, remind yourself that you are a skilled professional, that any organization would be lucky to hire you, and that the people at the event will be happy to meet you.

Don’t forget that many of the people that you meet are even more nervous than you are.  We all have our own reasons for being insecure, but if you are properly prepared, and stay focused during the event, it will be well worth the effort.

(Photo from:  Vlado/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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