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1st March
written by LS Girl

How to attend a networking event.

A guide for people who hate networking events.

How to attend a networking event

“Hello… do I know you, you look familiar”

At some point, you may find yourself in the unfortunate situation that you must attend a networking event.  For the most part, these events are populated by happy folks that love networking events, and a few outliers who are there for ulterior motives, such as:

“I love this networking event,” said the chipper 30 something attendee.

“Why?”  I asked.

Attendee:  “It’s every Tuesday at 7am, I love that!”

Me:  “Do you find opportunities for your business at this event?”

Attendee:  “Not really.”

Me:  “… Then… why do you like it?  What do you like about it?”

Attendee:  “It gets me out of having to get my kids ready for school!”

This is a conversation I actually had.

So, first off, you should try to look on the bright side:

You’re not at your desk all day, or driving in the rain, or standing at the bus stop in 3 feet of snow.  If you WANT to actually work the event, here are a few simple tips to make it more enjoyable:

After Hours Events:

Eat something before you go.  No matter what the brochure says… “free gourmet leg of lamb and filet mignon for all attendees…”  Eat first.

If they serve alcohol…. This is a tricky one.  I usually use this rule of thumb.  I size up who my biggest “fish” is in my networking pond, and if they are drinking, I will have a drink with them.  If they are not, I do not.

Once you’re inside, find a spot and stand there.  Observe the room for about 20 minutes.  A few people may walk up to you and introduce themselves, this is good.  Seek out the “leaders”.  They are usually obvious, and have some kind of markings on them, a name tag that has a banner or ribbon that says, “President” or something.  Ok, here is the key:

Walk up to this person, and say, “Hi, I’m (your name) with (your company), and this is my first time at this event, would you consider introducing me to a few key people?”  It’s the leader’s job to encourage meet and greets among attendees, and they are very good at it.  It ramps you up quickly, and there is no better introduction than from the leader of an organization.

If it’s a mingling type of event (you’re on your feet, everyone is roaming around,  there are no tables or sit down speaking events) wear something that makes it easy for people to talk to you.  Men, wear a nice tie, something bright but not goofy.  Women, wear a sparkling pin, or bright colored scarf or colorful shoes (NOT all three).  This makes it easy for someone to walk up to you and start a conversation.  “I like your pin”.  “That’s a great tie”.  EVEN BETTER:  wear something that has a story behind it (a good story).  “Thank you!  I bought this with the money I earned when I was named #1 sales person in my district”.  Or, “Thank you, one of my customer’s gave it to me.”

Wear something that will easily display your name tag… no ruffles or fuzzy stuff.  Leather is not a good idea (I learned this the hard way).  Pleather (fake leather) is probably the worst.

If you get “trapped” or cornered:  use this to your advantage:

“Let’s walk around and get our money’s worth from this event… “  This person will most likely take the lead and introduce you as they mingle.

Morning Events:

These groups tend to be more serious, and organized.  So, take a moment to be prepared.  Bring business cards (also important for after hours events).  Be prepared to say three sentences out loud.  I know, I know.  Here is what I do, because I am terrified of speaking in public.  I say ONLY what I know off the top of my head.  Period.  “Hi, my name is Thelma, and I work for Becker’s Engine Parts.  We are located on Main Street in Smithville, NY and I’ve been with the company for 3 years.  We make engine parts for the aerospace industry.”  That’s it.  You know your name, right?  And you know how long you’ve worked for your company, and the address (or at least the town), and you know 5 words that describe what your company does.  Don’t try to be funny, or super detailed.  Only 2 people are listening to you, anyway.

Worst case scenario, make one lap around the room and gather as many business cards as possible, and call them later if you’re more comfortable over the phone.

Chew gum on the way there.

Properly dispose of the gum before entering the room.

Try not to smell bad.

Smile at people, if you can.

Wear your name tag.  Just do it.  But remember to take it off when you walk out the door.

Give these tips a try…You never know, you might even meet someone you like!

Good luck!  (link on how to not smell)


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