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Recently I attended a networking event which I am growing to enjoy as an introvert.
In today's episode, we're talking about one of the most exciting parts of networking - attending networking events! Whether you're a seasoned networker or a first-timer, there's always something to learn when it comes to preparing for these events. We'll be discussing everything from researching the event details and setting your goals to preparing your elevator pitch and dressing appropriately. And let's not forget the importance of bringing those business cards!
But that's not all - we'll also be sharing some pro tips on how to practice active listening and create long-lasting relationships by following up with the people you meet.
So grab your coffee or tea, get comfortable, and join us as we share our insider tips on how to prepare for a networking event like a pro. Let's dive in.
Networking events can be an excellent opportunity to meet new people, build relationships, and create business opportunities. However, attending a networking event without preparing can be nervewracking and anxiety filled which can result in missed opportunities and lost connections.
As an introvert I know I need to push my boundaries and get out there and talk to other people because networking is a really great way to grow any business but it definitely is super nerve-racking coming in and not knowing what to expect. By taking the time to prepare mentally before networking events has really helped calm my nerves and feel more confident when I am talking to new people. Practice definitely makes perfect.
So I thought I would create a list for other introverts or anyone who needs to have more confidence so that you make the most out of your networking events, so here's some tips on how to prepare:
1. Research the event
The first step in preparing for a networking event is to research the event details. This includes the venue, speakers, and attendees. Understanding the event's agenda and the types of people who will be attending can help you prepare better and make the most out of the event. This way you will know exactly what you're walking into which will alleviate some anxiety. Fear comes with not knowing what's going to happen so if you know the people who are gonna be speaking then maybe you can prepare some questions for them and feel confident in approaching them.
2. Set your goals
Once you understand the event's details, you want to set your goals for attending. My goal for my first networking event was to pitch myself to five people. After I did that something magical happened and I landed one of those people as a client which made it 1000% worth it.
Your goals don't have to be super crazy maybe your goal is to simply go up and talk to three new people and you leave it at that. Coming in with a goal will help you stay determined and feel accomplished at the end of the event. Keep it simple and doable for your personality but also this is the perfect time to step out of your comfort zone a little bit.
If you don't normally raise your hand or participate in discussions then maybe make it a goal to say one thing during a discussion. Being able to hit a goal like that seems so simple it's going to feel so good for your soul. It's going to let you know that you can do hard things and when you start pushing your own boundaries and stepping out of your own box things are gonna happen for you and you can only get better, but you have to start somewhere.
Whether your goal is to meet new people, learn about new products or services, or find a job, having clear goals will help you focus your efforts and make the most out of your time.
3. Prepare your elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a short, 30-second introduction that explains who you are, and what you do. Preparing your elevator pitch beforehand will help you introduce yourself confidently and create a strong first impression.
You know people are going to ask you what you do so go ahead and practice your pitch. Before an event, I will practice the week before and just talk to myself, I will say my pitch to myself in the shower, while I'm making food in the kitchen, when I'm driving in the car, and pretty much whenever I have some time to myself and I will just practice saying my name, my business, what kind of business I run and ending it with how I like to help my clients.
My pitch, for example, goes something like this; 'Hi my name is Rizza, I have a brand and web design business called Z squared Studio. I help small businesses feel confident in marketing themselves by creating a personality-filled brand identity or website that converts for them, makes them memorable, and helps them stick out from everyone else.
You will be amazed that something as simple as practicing will give you the confidence boost that you need.
4. Bring business cards
Business cards are essential at networking events. They make it easy to exchange contact information with others and allow you to follow up with them after the event.
There are so many times when I want to exchange business cards with someone else and they simply forgot to bring theirs so definitely remember to put some in your pocket, wallet, or purse before you leave.
If they don't have a business card and you really want to follow up with them after the event, maybe you really vibed with them and share a lot of the same values then write their email on the back of one of your business cards. I would not trust that people are going to take the time out of their day to follow up with you. People get busy and forget to email you but if you're the one to take initiative and email them first then you're more likely to land that client.
5. Dress appropriately
Dressing appropriately for the event is critical. The dress code will depend on the event, so make sure to research this beforehand. Dressing appropriately will help you make a good first impression and show that you take the event seriously.
For all you women out there I would recommend investing in a really nice blazer, a nice dress, a nice pair of slacks, and a button-up shirt. These items don't have to be crazy expensive I actually found a really nice blazer that fit me well from a secondhand store.
When I have a networking event or I'm going to be meeting a lot of new prospective clients I just rotate between these pieces in my wardrobe, mix and match with other items of clothing that I already have and it works out really well for me and to be honest its just fun dressing up.
Something extra that I like to do is make sure that my outfits match my brand color palette. Might sound a little crazy but I just love the idea that if people were to go on my website and visit me and remember the outfits that I'm wearing that there is that nice cohesion. So if possible I like to wear things that are black, gray, blue, and really stay within that blue and neutral color palette that you see in my brand.
I know of a really big designer where her brand color is hot pink and she has this really nice hot pink jacket that she wears a lot in her photos and videos and I think that just screams something about her values. It says that she pays attention to detail and that she is intentional with everything that she does so if she's like that as a person then that's probably how she is with her designs as well.
6. Practice active listening
During the event, focus on actively listening to others and showing interest in what they have to say. Active listening will help you build strong relationships and create opportunities for future collaborations.
It's definitely not a secret that we do a lot more talking than we do listening but there really is a lot of power in listening. It will be a great way to learn something new and really get a sense of the person that is in front of you so you can find out about their values and see if you have anything in common. Then maybe that will eventually lead to some kind of collaboration or give you the opportunity to help them with your services.
If you're an introvert like me then you're already doing a lot more listening than you do talking so try and do the opposite, get out of your shell, and involve yourself in the conversation. Maybe even make a goal to get in the conversation and expand on one or two of the ideas that you're really confident in speaking about.
7. Follow up
This is the most important step in your networking journey. Follow up with the people you met after the event. This can be done by sending a thank you email or message. Following up will help you stay top-of-mind and create long-lasting relationships.
Actually, take the time to send them an email. Block out an hour of your time to send them an email it will be worth it.
If you're embarrassed to follow up know that it's absolutely normal. We all feel that way at first but I'm telling you to push that feeling aside and don't look back. You won't be a nag, you won't annoy them, and the worse thing that can happen is that they don't respond.
Remember the goal that you made at the beginning of your networking event. Was it to land more clients? Because if it was then you need to follow up. There is so much magic in the follow-up. Again I said this before and I'm going to say it again do not assume that people will contact you, take the initiative and message them first.
I think this step is highly underrated but super simple. Following up is the difference between landing a new client or not, simple as that.
Attending networking events can be an excellent opportunity to grow your network and create new business opportunities. Proper preparation is key to alleviating your fears and anxiety about talking to new people. I hope that you learn something today and can bring that with you into the journey of networking. As usual here are the tips again, 7 ways to prepare for a networking event
1. Researching the event details
2. Setting your goals
3. Preparing your elevator pitch
4. Bringing business cards
5. Dressing appropriately
6. Practicing active listening
7. Follow up
I hope you have fun and are able to make meaningful connections and achieve your networking goals. Talk to you next time.