Networking is a useful way to build professional connections and can provide you with countless opportunities to develop your business but attending your first networking event can be a nervewracking experience for new business owners. This article looks at how you can prepare for a networking event to get the most out of it.
When it comes to networking, confidence is key. That doesn’t mean you can’t be nervous but you do want to walk into the room feeling like the best possible version of yourself ready to represent and promote yourself and your business. It’s easier to feel confident when you’re happy with the way you look so consider your outfit carefully, dress to impress and remember to get that semi permanent hair colour fixed before the event.
Introducing yourself may sound like the easiest thing in the world until you have to do it in a room full of strangers for the first time. Take time before the networking event to practice your introduction, either by introducing yourself to friends and family or practising in a mirror. Be sure to make eye contact, smile and state your name and your business name clearly. Many of us struggle to remember other people’s names when we’re first introduced so take care to listen for the other person’s name and if you’re not sure if you’ve got it right, repeat it back to them to clarify.
If you haven’t already, get business cards printed and don’t forget to bring them along on the day. You don’t want to run out so bring more business cards than you think you’ll need and invest in a case to keep them from getting lost or creased in your bag or pocket. This will also look more professional when it comes to handing them out. Remember to ask for other people’s business cards too!
Practice your elevator pitch to help you briefly highlight who you are and the reason why you are there. Ideally, your pitch should be able to get your message across in less than a minute and hold people’s attention. Once you’ve got your pitch written, practice saying it out loud and try adapting it for different scenarios – for example, in casual conversation or delivering it formally to a room of people.
If you haven’t already got a LinkedIn profile then you should set one up before the event. If you’ve got a profile but it’s been a while since you updated it or posted anything, then now is the time to dust it off. LinkedIn is a great way to research who the other event attendees are and chances are, at least some of them will try to look you up too. Even if you only update your photo and bio, it will help others be able to find and connect with you before and after the event.