Networking events can become a way of life to some small business owners and entrepreneurs. But for the rest of us, networking can be awkward and also a very time consuming endeavor. Getting the most out of a networking event is important, especially when you have fairly limited, and very valuable, time.
1. Choose Wisely
You’re a busy person. You don’t have time to attend every networking event that comes your way. So choose wisely and have goals that relate to the type of event you're attending. If you want to meet people with certain expertise, choose an event that persona is likely to attend.
The best networking events are going to be ones that have a training component or a workshop. This will give you an opportunity to learn something new and can even give you something to discuss with the others who attend.
Before attending, find out if there is an account for the event on Twitter, and begin following them. If there’s going to be speakers, follow them, too. They will give you more detailed information in real time about the event, and possibly even access to presentations or other useful material.
This is perfect if you end up unable to attend the event at all, or have to arrive later than others. Even if the event account itself doesn’t give you clues about what is going on, checking out their hashtags can give you a heads up and allow you to jump seamlessly into the event.
Twitter is a great way to grow your network, even if you don’t have time to talk to at the event itself. So be sure to start some conversations on Twitter about the event, and to retweet or follow other event attendees who are using the hashtag.
Just remember that you don’t want to spend the whole event with your nose in your phone. Its all about a healthy balance, so find a way to tweet about interesting happenings, but still remain engaged with the people around you both virtually and in reality.
3. Don’t Overstay
Found someone to talk to? Have a basic idea of what you want to learn from each person at the event, and determine not to spend too much time on each person. You should set a time limit on conversations (something like 15 minutes) that way you have a chance to talk to more people, but still hold a valuable conversation with those you do talk to.
The goal of your conversations should be to make valuable connections, and learn about that person and what they have going for them. Look for signs that they might be a good partner to work with, someone who would add value to what you do, and who you could add value to as well.
And don’t spend too much time catching up with an old friend, or hanging out with your best buddy from your office building. Instead, invite that old friend out to coffee another time, and move on to some new connections using your 15 minute rule, and save the office networking for another time.
Networking events can be excellent tools if used correctly. Learn to make the most of them for what they are, and soon you will not have any trouble making successful connections. Keep in mind that connecting begins before and after the event. Utilize social media and the information you gather from business cards to follow up on the event. Without following up, you’ve just wasted your time!