Networking events: you either love them or you hate them. Fortunately, I love them, and being a PR professional offers endless networking events throughout the year. From trade shows to cocktail parties, there is a way to make sure that you are getting the most out of every networking event. Here are four ways to guarantee that your time is well spent:
Set a goal
Are you attending a trade show for a client? Are you looking for future customers or business partners? Take time researching who will be at the event beforehand. Time passes surprisingly fast at networking events, so try to reach out to people on LinkedIn and set up a coffee date, or briefly introduce yourself and let them know you’re looking forward to meeting them at the upcoming event. Set a goal to have a valuable conversation with five people during the event and exchange business cards for a follow up. More than five might be a little too ambitious, but don’t let me knock your hustle! Go for more if you think you’re up for the challenge.
Attending an event on a client’s behalf isn’t much different than networking for new business. Take advantage of Twitter conservations that will likely be going on before the start of the event. Identify whom you want to meet with and reach out to them. Get your name and picture in his or her mind, as it will make for an easy introduction: “Hi, we chatted on Twitter last week…”
Wear comfortable shoes
This almost goes without saying. If you have ever been to a conference or trade show, or even just a cocktail mixer, you’re very much aware that being on your feet for the majority of the event is basically a guarantee.
But, seriously, it’s really hard to network when your feet have a heartbeat.
Get involved in the online conversation. You’re pretty much married to the hashtag the event has adopted (don’t worry — there will be a hashtag), so use it to your advantage. You’ll likely pick up a few new followers, and it’s a great opportunity to connect with potential new clients, as well as media.
Share content on Twitter like pictures that you snap throughout the day or your favorite quotes from speakers and sessions. Then, engage your network with takeaways from sessions, speakers, demonstrations, etc.
Don’t be desperate
It’s all about the pitch, right? Well, no. It’s not. It’s all about people not thinking you’re only talking to them to get them to write about your client. Really take networking events as an opportunity to enjoy yourself and to build your own network.
If there were a couple people with whom you felt you really clicked, let them know. There is no substitution for a hand-written note, so if you really want to make an impression, get to writing. Whether you decide to follow up through LinkedIn or via snail mail, always include a key takeaway from your interaction:
“Hi Katie, it was great to meet you this weekend. Very rare to find someone who understands social media the way you do. Let’s link up in the next couple of weeks for coffee to talk about the future of social media and digital marketing. I’ll give you a call to get an idea of what your schedule is looking like. Look forward to talking soon. ”
You get the idea…
Networking can be fun — I promise! If you do it effectively, you’ll not only grow your LinkedIn connections, but you’ll have context for reaching out to media or future clients.