The Top 5 Ways to Maximize Your Success at Face-to-Face Networking Events

The Top 5 Ways to Maximize Your Success at Face-to-Face Networking EventsThis is the second post in a three-part series about how job seekers can network more effectively in face-to-face situations to help meet their career management goals.

In the first post, I shared tips to help job seekers prepare for networking events. That article included advice about setting networking goals, the different tools you should prepare to bring with you, and how to write and deliver your personal commercial or elevator pitch. Read that article here.

In this post, I will discuss what you can do during a networking event to capture the interest of key influencers and potential employers.

Dress for success. While the clothing you wear to a networking event must align with the type of event you’re attending, fashion experts at The Black Tux recommend that your attire should always be functional as well as stylish. Remember that the way you dress is part of your career brand. Hence, even informal outfits should be selected with your brand attributes in mind. What colors best represent your brand? How do you want to be remembered once the event is over? What do your personal style choices communicate about your professional demeanor?

If you’re attending a business-to-business event or job fair, make sure you choose a suit or dress that is well-fitted ~ professionally so, if possible. Keep in mind that small details are important, from the handkerchief tucked in your pocket to pins, jewelry, tie bars, and socks or hose. Lastly, given the fact that many people have allergic reactions to some scents, it’s vital to wear very little aftershave or perfume if any. After all, the last thing you want to be remembered for is causing someone to have an unfortunate reaction to your presence.

The power and presence of LinkedIn in the market seems to have overshadowed the popularity of real-life networking, but this is still a great way to make professional connections.

Formulate a plan. Once you get to the event, you need a game plan to help you meet the goals you set in the networking preparation phase. This can only be done when you arrive at the event and take some time to quickly get the lay of the land. For instance, when you go to a job fair, you must figure out which companies in attendance you want to visit, and where those companies are located. Sometimes companies advertised to attend such an event do not show for myriad reasons, and this may alter your day-of plans.

If you’re attending a holiday social, event, you won’t necessarily know who is attending before you arrive. Thus, you will want to find out who is there and who you would like to talk to in which order. You must assess your goals on the day of the event to determine how best to use your time and decide which introductions or conversations will best serve your career management goals.

If you’re attending a business-to-business networking event, you will need to see how things are laid out to decide how to best leverage your time and energy. Is it a structured event? Open-ended? Do you have a few minutes with each employer contact or is it more casual? You only need 30-60 seconds to figure out what your plan of attack will be.

Have your handouts ready. You should have plenty of business cards with you to hand out to people. Business cards are appropriate no matter what type of event you’re attending. If you’re at a job fair or trade show, I recommend carrying a folder or portfolio, so you can have your one-page networking tool handy for when you need it. This would not be appropriate for a neighborhood barbeque or a party, of course, but it wouldn’t hurt to have that portfolio in your car in case you do meet someone who would like more than a card.

Prioritize your connections. If you’re attending a time-limited event rather than an open-ended one, aim for your most-preferred contacts first. Find those people and connect with them early, so if an alarm sounds and you’re all forced to leave the building suddenly, you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. In addition to directly meeting employers, there may be times when you hope to get introductions to certain people at an event. Maybe you’re at a party and there’s someone you want to meet, but you may not be comfortable introducing yourself. Maybe you know someone else at the event knows them and you can ask for an introduction. It is perfectly fine to leverage these types of relationships in networking settings which are like LinkedIn in person (that’s how LinkedIn was created, in fact, to mirror face-to-face networking). The power and presence of LinkedIn in the market seems to have overshadowed the popularity of real-life networking, but this is still a great way to make professional connections.

Take notes. You’re going to be collecting cards and contact information at these events and I recommend that you quickly jot down notes about each networking encounter either on the business card they share with you or in a small notebook.  If this isn’t an appropriate thing to do at the event, you can always do so afterward in your car. You may even want to discreetly record notes in your cell phone.

The point is to capture key insights and comments that you won’t remember the days following the event. These may include things the contact said, suggestions he or she made, or ideas that occurred to you during or after the encounter. This is also the best time to jot down any commitments that you made to share information or follow-up on after the event. Lastly, you may also want to note any specific follow-up that you didn’t mention to the person, but want to make sure you do later. For example, if it becomes clear in the conversation that an article, blog post, resource, or event you’re aware of may be helpful to the person you’re speaking with, it will be helpful to make a note of that in the moment or soon after your conversation, so you can take care of that action step later.

I’ll be talking more about follow-up actions in the third part of this blog series, including whether or when to send your resume or networking document after the event. Watch for that blog post soon.

 

Networking is both an art and a science, and one that requires you to execute it in a way that is both comfortable and in alignment with your integrity. If you struggle with face-to-face networking or need help figuring out to be authentic in networking situations, let me know. As a Career and Job Search Coach, I can help.