Three Top Reasons to Network
You can meet contacts who can help you
You will begin to soak up the events industry jargon
You will quickly understand that networking is a key component of business life
Before You Go
Have your business cards ready. If you don’t have your cards you will miss the opportunities that would have been available to you.
Know why you are going and what you want to achieve (this may be as simple as understanding how networking works – so it is ok to go along and take a look).
Think of who you would like to meet and what you would like to ask them (you may not know these people by name but you should at least know what your interest areas are so people at the event can point you in the right direction). Have questions that you have thought about so that you can be taken seriously.
At the Event
Do not take your CV and ask for a Job – you will never succeed this way. Your task at this point is to get engaged in some conversations and meet a few people.
You should aim to soak up all the industry knowledge you can. Find out which websites/trade publications and reference sources people use and then make sure that you visit them. You need to know where people go for the news and opinion that is affecting the industry.
Reading about the real issues of people in the industry will broaden your knowledge and provide you with more to talk about at future events and in your interview(s).
Create your own profile in the industry by being interested, polite and professional at all times. One of the best examples of this is Miguel Neves who showed these qualities as a student and he is now an event planner who is doing really well.
Discuss your research or the area that you enjoy or specialise in. Do not think that the industry folk will not be interested. I am sure that most will be. After all the industry needs to keep developing and it can only do that through looking at the latest studies and opinion.
Listening is crucial. There may be opportunities for you but you will not be able to spot them if you are talking all the time. Listen more than talk. This is not all about you. It’s about learning the craft to develop your presence.
Go your own way and do not stay with the same person all night. Similarly if you have gone along with friends do not stay with them. After all you need to establish your own identity.
Remember that you will never know just who is connected to whom so never say anything that can come back to hurt you.
After the Event
Look through the business cards and make a point of writing a letter to the person and thanking them for their time and trouble. A personal letter really stands out so much more than a quick e mail. Refer to any specific conversation piece that may help you move forward. If they asked you to contact them then make sure you do.
Do this within 24 hours of the event (after that the memory of busy business people starts to fade) and this will help you be remembered.
Include the business cards in your information/contacts database and make notes on some characteristic of theirs so that you can use that to refer to at a later date.
Take the long term view. It takes time to develop presence. You need to be persistent.
There is no overnight success for this activity. So be disciplined and don’t become disillusioned.
Networking is an art that times time and polish and some networking events will be more beneficial than others. It is just the way it works.
Ten Top Tips
Do not get drunk
Do not take your CV
Never bad mouth anyone
Listening is crucial
Talk about your research/special area of interest
Send a follow up letter to the people you met
Do your homework (the pre – work and the follow up work) – This is why it is called networking.
Know that you will make mistakes but learn from them
Remember this is a long term business activity