Making the Most of a Networking Event

By Deanna Bonaparte

Many of us are not born networkers. Conversation might flow between close friends, but that’s probably because you’ve grown familiar and comfortable with each other and your interactions have become something of a habit. But meeting with strangers at a networking event is a different ball game entirely – it requires considerable finesse and people are going to analyse how you portray yourself with close scrutiny.

Dress to Impress

Even if you aren’t familiar with the saying that clothes make the man, you should still have had the experience – perhaps inadvertently – of judging someone poorly because of their shabby dressing. It will do you well to check with the event organiser for the dress code and adhere to it – and when in doubt, a smart-casual attire will seldom go wrong. Putting yourself together smartly reflects the respect you have for the other party and for yourself. While you are not required to purchase a pair of designer trousers just for the event and leave a hole in your pocket, you must know that people are going size you up based on your sartorial choices. Put thought into your appearance and you will be surprised at how many more people will be interested in what you have to say.

The Impression After

While your exterior appearance plays a large role in creating a favourable impression, there are other equally important factors to consider. The stellar impression you managed to create while you walked over in a classy black suit will have been for nothing if you lose them after your first introduction. Bear in mind that your right hand should be kept free so that you are always prepared to extend a handshake. It is also important to be ready with an interesting introduction, so as to allow for the best representation of yourself or your company. It might also be good to prepare in your head questions or comments regarding the event, or an intriguing piece of recent news that is of relevance to the people in attendance.

That One Card

Just as the one thing you cannot forget before you make your way to the airport is your passport, one essential must-have at a networking event is your namecard. Bring a number of namecards along with you so that you will give people something to remember you by after you speak – at an event where everyone is out to meet as many people as possible, having a physical reminder of your meeting is crucial. This will also allow your contacts to notify you if relevant opportunities or projects come their way. When you receive a namecard, take a moment to look at what’s on it to see if there is anything that could possibly generate further discussion. You might want to bring along a pen too, so that you are able to jot down some highlights of your conversation at the back should you need to recall them later.

What You’re Really There For

If it is your first time at a networking event, you might find comfort in sticking like a barnacle to the first person you find yourself at ease with. However, doing so only defeats the purpose of being at a networking event. You may also be preventing this kind, obliging person from actually networking with others, depriving both of you of the chance to explore opportunities and meet more people. It is thus important to set a goal for yourself. Think about what you want to achieve and the kind of connections you wish to make. Setting a goal – for example, exchanging name cards with five others from the media industry – gives you added motivation to put yourself out there, and ensures that you make the most of your time.

What other pointers are there to take note of at a networking event? Share with us in the comment box below!

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