How can you make a networking event a worthwhile use of your valuable time?
- Work the room. Don’t just talk to the people you know. Introduce yourself to strangers. Don’t hang too long with any one person. Move around.
- Talk to all kinds of people, including those who may not look as successful or attractive as others. Cliché time: you can’t judge a book… oh, you know.
- If you’re older, talk to the younger folks. If you’re younger, talk to the older folks. We can all learn from one another.
- Talk about business, but talk about other things, too. Sports, events, your family, your life.
- Exchange business cards, but don’t count anybody whose card you receive as a prospect. Follow up with a call or a note or an email, if you wish, but don’t jump right into your sales pitch.
- If it’s an afternoon or evening event, don’t drink too much. It can impair your driving and can impair your talking. You may say something you will later regret.
- Judge the event on whether you enjoyed meeting the people you hung with, not on how many business cards you took home. Did you learn something? Did you get some useful opinions? Did you gather some hot gossip?
- Realize that the true value of meeting and exchanging cards with someone may not come for months, if ever. Enjoy your networking events. Some will be good. Some will be okay. Some will be bad. But you won’t know if you don’t show up. And remember to work the room.