It is never too early to start preparing for your future in your career. Even before you have graduated, consciously set aside time in your schedule to attend networking events. They are a great way to meet people from different walks of life and expand your social and corporate circle. The best part of a networking session is that you never know who you might meet - your future boss, business partner or client.
The common vice that renders people’s aversion to networking events is the byproduct of exhaustion at the end of one. Putting on your game face and bringing your A game for a few hours straight can wear you out. However, that is only due to greed and unfocused enthusiasm in attending every networking event available. Shortlist those that will advance your career goals and assist to achieve your professional agendas solely and attending one will cease to be a chore.
Here are 5 things that you should do to have a fruitful, efficient and effective networking time.
Craft Out a Game Plan
As with anything in life, there must be an objective. What is the reason that you are attending this networking event? Is it to build your contacts or is it to see who your competitors are? It does not have to be a long list - one or two objectives should be set for each networking event you attend.
One way to draft an objective would be to find out who the speakers are or to get a hold of the guest list. Sieve through the names of who are attending the event and pick a few whom you want to build a connection with, and craft a plan from there on how to engage them. This should keep you focused throughout the event, and somewhat ensure that you do not leave empty-handed.
Personal Hygiene and Dress Code
Similar to going for a job interview, first impression counts. It might have been a long day at work or the weather might have been erratic, but no one would like to approach a glum-faced person or endure the stench of body odour while conversing with you. It is often wise to carry a small bottle of fragrance with you so you can whisk a quick whiff when necessary. A smart casual outfit will often do the trick and it is the safe way to go. However, it is not carved in stone. When in doubt on how to dress, the best code will always be the one that fits the event. Thus, do not over-dress as well as you do not want to stand out in an awkward way.
Work On Your Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch consists of a few key things that include your name, what you are currently doing, your academic or work background and if applicable, what your business is about. In short, it is a summary of what you are about that can be recited in less than a minute – hence the term ‘elevator pitch’. You should be able to recite it in one elevator trip.
It might seem like an easy thing to do, but rest assured a good elevator pitch takes time and effort to craft (read our article on ‘5 Tips to Write a Killer Elevator Pitch’ on Pg 28). Bear in mind that it also needs to intrigue your audience and make them want to know more about you, ask questions and start an engaging conversation. At the end of the day when everyone leaves, your pitch should be the one that is memorable.
Prepare the Essentials
Two things to have at hand - business cards and a pen. The best way to keep in contact with the people you meet at the event would be by passing them your business card. You can roughly gauge the number of attendees based on the popularity or scope of the event so bring enough.
It is a smart way to go paperless now as well with e-business cards that can be sent over via airdrop, QR codes or the old-fashioned way of mobile texting or e-mailing. With a digital card, a business contact cannot lose your card and you make it easier for them to stay in touch with you.
Why the pen? After each and every introduction or discussion, note down the new contact’s strengths or skill you wish to tap on later. This ensures that even when there is a crowd, you do not get confused or forget who you met the next day, ensuring maximum productiveness at the session.
Steer Clear of The Bar
It looks good to have a drink at hand; it shows that you are relaxed and approachable. Having said that, being drunk, slurring in speech and personifying a fumbling demeanor might be one of the worst things to present at a networking event. Rule of thumb: two drinks is the maximum you should consume throughout the event - regardless of how well you hold your liqueur.