How to Make Meaningful Connections at Networking Events
Creating a wide network of contacts will help you discover mutual opportunities, raise your profile, create long-term relationships, and increase your access to resources. Now that most business networking organizations are in full swing with in-person events, it’s a great time to make sure your mingling skills are up to snuff. It’s easy to feel a bit intimidated or overwhelmed walking into a group where you may not know many people. We want you to walk away from each opportunity knowing that you made at least one meaningful connection! That’s why we put together seven tips on how to be successful at your next networking event.
1. Come prepared with a clear goal in mind.
It’s natural to attend a networking event and stick by the people you know or stay in one spot. That’s why it’s important to strategize in advance, so you know what you want to get out of each event. If you’re new to networking, your first goal could be to obtain 10 business cards, which will help you feel comfortable with approaching people and sharing your pitch. If you work in advertising, your goal might be to meet and exchange information with two decision-makers at advantageous companies. Think about what goals will help you to advance in your career.
2. Always Be Ready to Give Your Pitch
An elevator pitch is a short, engaging speech that you use to create interest in what your organization does. You can also use it to promote a project, idea or product, or even yourself. A successful elevator pitch should be no longer than an elevator ride of 30 – 60 seconds (hence the name) and should include a call to action. Tell people what you’re looking for or how they can help you. Remember, they’re all there to make connections too. You could end your pitch by saying, “If you know of any organizations that could benefit from or would be interested in learning more about this service, please let me know.” People should walk away from hearing your pitch knowing your name, what you do, what company you work for, and how they can support you.
3. Prep Relevant Conversation Starters
Conversation starters are a very helpful tool for having smooth and interesting discussions with new contacts. Preparing conversation starters for different scenarios can help you avoid awkwardness when you meet someone for the first time. For example, if you’re attending an event with many small business owners, prepare topics that would be relevant to them. Ask them about how the pandemic has affected their work policies. Do they now offer a remote or hybrid work model? What has that transition been like, and what have been some negatives and some positives? Ask questions and listen.
4. Ask for Introductions
Try to find a list of event attendees or look for a membership list if it exists. Introduce yourself to the hosts of the event, and tell them who you’d like to meet and why. Hosts are a great resource for you because they will know most of the people there, and will be glad to help create connections.
5. Show Sincerity and Interest
When initiating a conversation, asking the others about their background and work will demonstrate that you’re interested in more than just your own potential opportunities. The best questions to ask are ones that can’t be answered with a simple yes or a no, such as:
- How long have you been working for your company?
- How did you get involved in this industry?
- What projects are you working on right now?
6. Offer to Help
Networking isn’t meant to be one-sided. It should provide value for both parties at some point. Look for ways to help your network, and they’ll happily want to help you in return. Offer to volunteer at an upcoming event, help promote their initiatives, and/or offer to make connections/introductions. Even more beneficial, find a way to utilize your professional skills to help them. That way, your contact can provide a first-hand testimonial about your abilities. Word-of-mouth referrals are an incredibly strong marketing tool.
7. Follow Up
Make sure to keep track of all business cards and input the information into a spreadsheet. Follow up with each person afterward and follow them on LinkedIn with a personalized note. Make sure to include a point about something you had discussed and end with a call-to-action that isn’t too steep of an ask. Something like, “I’d love to pick your brain after the next meeting. Can I buy you a coffee?”
Are you looking for productive networking opportunities or organizations to join? You can join NJ Health Care Network for free and enjoy a multitude of member benefits, including monthly meetings, information on member events, job postings, and much more. Register here https://njhcnet.com/iump-register/ to join this community of more than 1,500 healthcare professionals.