How to prepare for a networking event

Attending networking events and conferences is the cause of  much anxiety for many business owners, but here’s a little tip, chances are any time you attend a network filled with anxiety there is a large chunk of fellow conference attendees feeling the exact same way.  

Think of this article as your networking toolkit packed with resources to pack into your networking arsenal. By the time your next conference or networking event rolls around you should be able to stride into the conference with confidence rather than your tail between your legs.

What ​are some types of networking events

A networking event can take many forms. Some are formal networking conference events whilst others are more laid back casual events.

Industry conferences

Industry conferences are probably one of the biggest types of events for networking.  You can pretty much bet that every type of industry will have conferences or some form of meet-up for that niche. 

Training events/classes:

Attending courses and workshops  can be a more interactive way to network. These type of events are generally more interactive  and in a smaller groups of people.

Benefits of atten​ding networking events

So why should you put yourself out there and attend a networking event anyway? Connecting and meeting new people in your industry is something that can be invaluable for your business’s growth and for meeting new potential clients.

Attending networking events can also be a great way to keep you sane if you tend to work alone. Many small business owners are sole traders that work predominantly on their own or from home and it can get lonely.  The day to day interaction that you would have working in a physical space with coworkers is just not there. That’s why these events are great to give you that interaction and that social aspect of your industry.

As a bonus, by  extending your network you open yourself and the people you meet to opportunity. You get onto each other’s radars. Months down the track you may hear of an opportunity that would be perfect for someone you met at a networking event or someone else might hear of a great opportunity for you. Networking events allow you to build up this support system to help each other out.

What should I do before a ne​​​​​​​twork​​​​ing event?

Picture this. You have scheduled yourself to attend a networking event. Perhaps it’s your first networking event and you are unsure what’s expected of you.  Should you prepare yourself before the event? Or should you even prepare?

A little planning before a conference will help you build your confidence and get the most out of any networking events.

Get your business cards sorted early​​​

Are your business cards topped up? If you are ordering business cards for a conference make sure that you order them nice and early to allow enough time for them to arrive. Make sure to include your main social media accounts on them.

Join in the pre-networking discussions

Often, networking and conference events have Facebook event pages set up for them or private Facebook or Linkedin groups.  By getting active in these groups you will get to know attendees beforehand and build familiarity. That way by the time you meet in person it will feel like meeting an old friend.

What to wear to a networking event

Sometimes, those new to networking events can become a little nervous about what to wear.   Most conferences don’t state what the dress code will be casual, formal, laid back?  One way to gauge the dress code is to google the conference’s past events and see what the attendants are wearing. However, in all honesty no one really remembers what anyone wear to conferences unless it’s a specific fashion niche.

Get your social media accounts sorted

If you are a follower of Cleo and JoJo Media you will know how much of an importance we place on businesses of any size having a social media presence.  You don’t need to be on every platform, but you should be on the right platform. Some industries do better on certain platforms over the others. Visual business tend to better on Instagram whilst tech business benefit from Twitter. Service business seems to get better engagement on Facebook.

Research which platforms your competitors are using to get an idea what you should you be focusing on.

Know your introduction

There’s one thing that you can pretty much count on at a conference and that is being asked what you do. This should be an easy question, but it can make some people tongue-tied when trying to sum up what they do in a few seconds.

Rehearsing your elevator pitch before actually  attending a conference can be a big help. Keep it short and concise and never ever spruik your services.  At every conference you will always find that one person who is just trying to push their business unsolicited onto someone else.  It’s cringeworthy for all parties involved.

If you want further information on how to handle networking like a pro grab a copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. This book should be recommended reading not only for business owners but for people in general.  The book was published in 1936 but it is still as relevant today as it was then. Simple things such as referring to people by their name when in conversation and having genuine interest in them are some topics covered in the book. It’s straightforward basic advice but often it’s the simple skills that we overlook that pack the biggest punch.

Have conversation starters /small-talk ready

The night before the event take a sheet or paper or even jot it into your phone and write a list of 5-7 questions you can ask someone you just meet.

  • It doesn’t need to be  big  detailed questions, just something as simple as, 
  • Have you been to this event before?
  •  Did you have to travel far to get here?
  • Are there any speakers you are looking forward? What’s been your favourite session so far?
  • Have you been to this meet-up before?

These are simple questions that anybody should be able to answer and it can be a gateway to a longer more meaningful conversation

How to find networking events

Finding networking events to attend can take a little bit of research but can be invaluable to you.  Get in touch with any industry association websites to see if there are any regular conferences. Meetup.com is also a really good starting point to find localised events and ask existing colleagues in your industry if there are any events that you should attend.

Networking and conference events can be intimidating at first, but stick with it. With each event you attend you will build up your confidence and you never know who you might connect with. It could be your next big profitable client or could be someone you may collaborate with and become your next big business project.

If you have any networking and conferencing tips to share please feel free to add them in the comments.