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Attending a networking event to connect with people you don’t know can feel overwhelming. But with the right planning and preparation you can keep your mind focussed and make sure you get the most from the experience to help your business.
We’ve already explained what you should do after a networking event. This blog explains what you should beforehand to prepare for one.
When preparing for a networking event, it’s important to first think about what you want to get out of it. What are your key goals? For instance, do you hope to meet people that can help develop your business, like suppliers or distributors, or are you mainly looking for potential clients? Perhaps you’re hoping to meet industry experts who can help build up your business knowledge.
To clarify your networking goals, it’s worth asking yourself questions, like:
Attending a networking event can be a nerve-racking experience. It can feel overwhelming walking into a room filled with people you don’t know and tempting to not make the most of the experience. Outlining a series of networking objectives, however, can help you keep your cool at the event and focus on achieving them. It can also help you measure how successful the event has been for you, in terms of how many goals you’ve achieved.
Research is essential when preparing to attend a networking event. It’s wise to check the event details, such as the dress code and starting and finishing times to work out when is best to attend – if you show your face towards the end of the event, for instance, many busy business people, who are worth connecting with, might have left.
You should also look for a list of all those who will be attending. The event management team should be able to send you a copy of the list, if you can’t access one.
Finding out the names of attendees, their job titles and the companies they work for can help you know which people are most valuable for you to connect with.
It’s a good idea to Google them, read up on their companies and look at their career history by using business social sites, such as LinkedIn. If you can’t get hold of an attendees list, it’s worth doing a bit of research on the company or organisation that’s running the event. Looking at things like their target markets and customer base can give you an idea of who might attend.
It’s worth pointing out that you don’t have to wait till the event itself to get in touch with people. For those attendees who you’d especially like to connect with, it can be beneficial to reach out to them beforehand. For instance, you could send them a quick email to introduce yourself and let them know you’ll be attending.
Also, a big networking event, or one that’s part of a major conference, for instance, might have its own link to a social site. This could include a hashtag on Twitter or a group on LinkedIn. If so, it’s worth sending a short message on that social network to alert people that you’ll be attending to help maximise your visibility.
Business networking involves telling people about you and your company. So it’s a good idea to have in mind a kind of concise pitch that you can use to introduce your business and what you do. This could demonstrate things like how you can help people and your ideal client. It’s also worth thinking of several key interesting points or achievements about your company, which you could mention during conversations.
You should also think of some key questions that you can ask people during your networking. This could include what brought them to the event, what they do and their career history. You can learn about this in our blog, What questions to ask at a networking event.
When it comes to deciding what to wear for a networking event, you should aim to look your best and appear professional, while sending out the right message about your company. It’s wise to plan your outfit and get it ironed, dry-cleaned and ready in advance. You should also make sure you’re dressed comfortably to keep your mind focussed when at the event. For instance, consider comfortable shoes that will allow you to stand and walk for hours at a time. Also, think about clothing that will help keep you warm or cool, in case the networking room’s temperature is low or high, or the event is held outside.
It’s also important to research how to get there and plan your journey, considering the most convenient route for you, whether you’re travelling from home or the office. You should also consider checking an alternatives route, just in case there are road closures or train delays, depending on how you’ll be travelling.
Finally, pack what you’ll need. You shouldn’t need to take too much, but it’s wise to include a pen and note pad, in case you need to take down people’s contact details, and your business cards.
There’s a lot to think about when attending networking events to make sure you get the most out of them. With our expert networking services, we can help you connect with the right people to make your business fly. The service, which we offer to all our FSB members, includes:
To find out more about networking and how we can help you and your business, please visit our FSB Connect Networking page. FSB Connect Networking is included as standard with our packages, Business Essentials, Business Creation, and FSB Connect. Please visit our package comparison page to compare other benefits of our packages.
Network with other members and non members from across the UK through our National and Local networking framework