Author: Michelle Riklan
The ever-important networking event. Some people love them. Others hate them. No matter how you feel about them, it is hard to ignore their value. Regardless of what line of work someone is in, being able to get out and talk to new people and make connections is valuable. For a lot of people, networking events can generate leads or new business opportunities. Others are able to find new employment or opportunities to collaborate. Most importantly, networking events allow participants to get to know people within a community; whether it be a geographic community (e.g., regional chamber of commerce) or a community of practice (e.g., a meeting of a professional or trade organization).
While different people may have different motivations for attending a networking event, one thing is for sure, everyone wants to make a good impression. It is possible to be memorable for the wrong reasons. Making a good, memorable impression at a networking event can pay dividends in both the short- and long-run.
Oftentimes it is easy to recognize the people at a networking event that are trying to “get something.” Networking is a great opportunity to make connections that can lead to employment, business or sales leads, but no one wants to feel like they’re being sold something. Rather than focusing on what you can get, you can be more memorable by asking questions of others. Be an active listener and try to find out about other people and what they do. Genuine curiosity about others can be rare, so this simple tip can make you stand out from the crowd.
Connect Other People
If you are in the fortunate position to know people at a networking event, seize the opportunity to help connect other people. Make introductions to people that you think may have something in common. Sometimes it is as easy as children going to the same school, they went to the same college or you know they are members at the same gym. People are drawn to commonalities, but they also appreciate someone making it easy to find that common ground to start a conversation. Help other people make connections.
Have An Elevator Pitch/Introduction
In most cases, you are going to be asked something along the lines of “What do you do?” or “Who are you with?” at a networking event. Prepare in advance of the event with an elevator pitch—a summary of who you are and what you do that you can tell people in the time it takes to make a short elevator ride.
For example, if you are in a relatively new environment, something along the lines of “I’m Rob, I recently began working as an accountant at XYZ Corporation, but prior to that I was in corporate finance with ABC Incorporated in Dayton for four years.” In one short introduction, the person already knows a little bit about you, what you do, what you’ve done in the past, where you’ve worked, and so on. While it didn’t take long, all of this information can serve as a good jumping off point for a conversation and follow-up questions.
Any time you meet someone, one of the most impactful things you can do is remember his or her name. It isn’t always easy and some people are better at it than others, but there are ways to improve. One method is to repeat the person’s name after they say it to you. Another is to use their name during the conversation, which helps it stick in your brain. Remembering people’s names sounds simple, but it is an easy way to be memorable to those you have just met.
Sometimes being memorable at a networking event means something you do after the event. If you made a strong connection with someone or they asked you to do something, be sure to follow up by doing what you said you would. It could be anything. If they asked for a copy of your resume or for you to send them some information or a contact they could use, follow up with a short email. Another route is a handwritten note or phone call, even setting an appointment to grab coffee in the next few weeks.