Yesterday I shared tips on how to throw a great networking event, but what most people want to know is how to really wow at networking events. How do you make yourself stand out amongst the other people in attendance at a networking event? How can you move the shy inner person aside and share the inner rockstar with the room? Or for people like me, how do you decrease the anxiety enough to not come off as a hyperventilating, sweaty palmed super-fan when meeting someone for the first time?
After hosting many networking events with my networking group Portland Bloggers, and attending even more, I’ve come up with a few tips that help me get through a networking event fairly unscathed and with a lot of great connections.
(Big thanks to Portland-local event, food and family photographer Aubrie LeGault for taking these amazing photos!)
Before I get to the tips though, let me say that networking REALLY works. You’ve heard the saying before, “It’s all about who you know!” While I don’t believe that is what it is all about, I do believe that there is something to it. You don’t have to know the most powerful player in town to find a connection that will lead you to your next career, opportunity or best friend. I’ve seen several people (including myself) create careers and land jobs or amazing opportunities from taking the time to network with others. It isn’t just about meeting another person either, it is about showing what you can do once you have the opportunity, but making the opportunity to show what you’ve got arrive is all in the networking.
Tips for Attending a Networking Event that Make the Room Say WOW
Okay, so you believe me that networking works. You’ve seen it happen or see where it might work for you. You are ready to take the next step and meet someone that you can really show what you’ve got, but how do you make that opportunity arrive? How do you make the most out of a networking event? Simply follow these easy tips and see all the connections you make!
Networking Tip 1: Pick your networking events with purpose.
There is no point going to a networking event that doesn’t meet your needs in some way or another. Go to an event with the people you want to connect with or with people that can help you meet the people you want to connect with at some point. Thinking about your purpose and the type of people you want to connect with prior to choosing your networking events will help you narrow down your options and utilize your time and efforts in the best way possible.
What does that mean? It means that if you are a blogger looking to connect with brands you want to look for networking events that will put you directly with brands or with other bloggers in a similar niche with brand development in a place that you want your blog to be at. If you are wanting to collaborate on projects or learn from other bloggers then go to an event that puts you with bloggers who may want to do the same thing. Networking with people in an industry that you want to work is great for job connections!
The bloggers that attended the recent Portland Bloggers’ event got the opportunity to meet other bloggers from a variety of niches and sizes. They were able to ask specific questions about monetizing, photography, design, marketing, content creation and more. It was a great event for bloggers looking to connect with collaboration partners as well as learn more about their craft. Personally, I found out about two new ad networks that I later looked into and signed up for!
How do you find your purpose? Decide what you want to accomplish with the networking event by examining your goals and the types of people you want to meet to help you get closer to your goals. For instance: I have a goal to finish my ebook and launch it in September. My last networking events I specifically went with a purpose in mind to connect and get to know bloggers who I feel would be great people to send my ebook to prior to launch to get feedback and possibly help promote. My purpose was to connect and get to know local influencers in a way that would let me know if they’d be the right person to help me reach my goal. In addition, my purpose was to help other bloggers reach their goals. Networking is not a one way street after all!
Networking Tip 2: Bring business cards that stand out.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many networking events that I’ve attended where people do not have business cards. I can’t even count the times that I’ve made this mistake myself! They are printing, I forgot them, I didn’t have enough on me… I’ve got all the excuses covered. If you really want to wow a room you need to have business cards that stand out. At the end of an event the people that talked to you probably talked to at least five other people with which they exchanged cards. Your card needs to stand out and make your memorable.
At our last event one of the attendees, Yvonne from Dress this Nest & King Cream, brought little individual ice creams to hand out to guests as they left. Do you think anyone forgot her business cards that day? Nope!
And, no, I don’t suggest you figure out a way to bring ice cream to everyone at an event. But, I am suggesting you take time to have business cards that speaks about you in a way that people will remember that it was YOU that gave it to them. My business cards use the same color scheme and photos that are on my blog.
Networking Tip 3: Think of yourself as a brand.
This tip goes for anyone who attends a networking event—not just bloggers. Thinking of yourself and what you have to offer as a brand and presenting yourself in a professional, unique way (as brands have to do) will set you apart from the crowd.
Three things you should know about your “brand” to help you make the most of networking:
- Know what you have to offer each person that you meet. What is your brand’s value?
- Know who you help with your offerings—your readers, customers, potential employers.
- How do you provide this value in a unique way?
Networking Tip 4: Prepare to talk about yourself.
At a networking event you will have to talk about yourself at one point or another. You will need to talk about yourself in a way that is authentic, concise and interesting. This trait comes to some people naturally. If so, kudos for you!
However, if you are like me and instead end up a rambling machine that doesn’t ever come to the point and ends up talking about themselves WAY too much or giving a little too much information then you’ll want to take care to not skip this step and PREPARE.
Thinking of yourself like a brand helps with this step a lot. Take the time to answer the above three questions, write them down, and practice talking about them with specific examples.
Networking Tip 5: Know that it isn’t about you. No really, it isn’t.
So, yes, you will need to talk about yourself at a networking event. And, yes, you’ll basically be selling your “brand” to people you meet with the hopes of meeting YOUR purpose. However, it still isn’t about you.
If you go to a networking event and only talk about yourself (a sin I’ve done on many occasions because I get so nervous that all I can do is babble about what I know) then you’ll leave with no real connections and not one ounce closer to your goals.
However, if you go with the purpose of getting to know OTHERS and how the value that you offer can be beneficial to those people then you will come out of the networking event a total networking rockstar. You will find connections with people that can help you meet your purpose all the while helping them reach their goals.
Networking Tip 6: Take notes as soon as the event is over.
This may seem incredibly nerdy, but I promise that if you do this then you will not regret it. I learned this at a recent marketing symposium from a Washington based marketing team called Delphis Creative. The owner of the marketing business suggested that as soon as you get out of every meeting with someone you connect with take the time to take notes on what you talked about, notes about the person and your thoughts about the connection. Take a little time as soon as an event is over (or heck, even on a bathroom break!) to write a few notes about who you met and what you’ve learned.
One cool way to keep track of all of these is to create Evernote notebooks for each event you go to, take a snap shot of the business cards you receive, and write your notes about the person saved with that card. Then, as you develop your relationship you can add to that note. You can also create some cross referencing with tags as you think of ways that you can provide value to that person, or ways they might be able to help you reach your goals.
Networking Tip 7: Connect after the event.
Networking events do not end when the door closes and the last glass of wine has been dumped and racked for cleaning. Now days the events can go on and on with the addition of social networking. Take your notebook and purposefully connect with those people with whom you met and started a connection. Connect over social media or email. Just connect.
Did I leave any tips out? What have you learned from your own networking successes and failures? Comment below!
Thank you to the sponsors of the Portland Bloggers Speed Networking Event:
A big, big thank you goes out to all the awesome sponsors that helped make the recent Portland Bloggers’ networking event possible. I appreciate the support of local Portland bloggers and hope that you do too! Please check out the websites of these awesome supporters of Portland blogs and connect with them online:
Host: Passionfruit | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
Photographer: Aubrie LeGault Photography | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
Bagels: Bowery Bagels | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
Coffee: Black Rock Coffee Bar | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter