Networking events can be stressful affairs, especially for those early in their career. However, it’s important to forge new connections as you progress throughout your career, and networking events are a key part of building your professional contacts. While it can be easy to get caught up in the size of your network, don’t make the mistake of overlooking the quality of your relationships. In the long run, this will certainly prove to be more important than quantity, but how can you focus on this when making small talk with strangers? To enter your next networking event with the confidence needed to have a quality conversation, here are five ways to prepare:
Update your LinkedIn
Your LinkedIn profile will be a key connection point for the people you meet. Not only will this be a destination after the event for those who want to stay in touch with you, but you’ll also want to be ready to link with new connections right after you meet them. As a result, you’ll want to make sure that your profile is up-to-date, including recent work, a professional photo, and key contact information.
Print business cards
While connecting on LinkedIn is a more modern way to stay in touch, exchanging business cards has always been a common practice. This is an efficient way to trade all the necessary information needed to contact each other, allowing you to continue the conversation at a later date, and move onto meeting other people. Be sure to include all contact details, as well as any relevant digital mediums that showcase your work, such as a social media profile or a website.
If you have access to the event page or a list of RSVPs, do some research on those planning to attend. By knowing which guests interest you ahead of time, you can be more strategic about whom you’ll approach when you see a myriad of new faces.
While you may think that arriving fashionably late will make you more comfortable, it’s more difficult to edge into a conversation once groups have been formed. As a result, try pushing yourself to get to the event on the earlier side. By taking this opportunity to strike up a conversation with other early birds, you’ll be more likely to have more personal, one-on-one interactions. This will also give you a chance to calm your nerves, allowing you to feel more confident once the event is underway.
Have an open mind
Many professionals early in their career are constantly told how important it is to networking is to landing a job or finding career advancement opportunities. However, industry veterans can spot desperation quickly. Always remember that networking is a two-way street. Try to keep your intentions in check, and focus on what you can offer other people instead of what you may be able to get out of them.