Preparing for a Networking Event
Before you attend your next networking event
Have you been invited to a networking event? If yes, please don’t rush to the event at the very last minute without first undertaking some important preparation.
Know how you’ll introduce yourself
Introducing yourself to other invited attendees will be among the most important activities you’ll undertake at any networking event. It’s not difficult. In fact, here’s all you need to do: if you are not already standing, stand up; make eye contact; smile; state your name and a descriptor; and extend your right hand for a handshake. Once you clasp the other person’s hand, pump once or twice and then release.
In terms of preparation, think long and hard about the descriptor you will use. It should be comprised of two or three sentences that tell the other person something about who you are and what you do.
When I meet someone at an event, I introduce myself by saying, “Hi, I’m Mary Crane. I’m the owner of Mary Crane & Associates. I take brilliant students and transform them into successful professionals.” Once I’ve completed those three sentences, the person I’ve met knows the following: 1) my name; 2) the name of my company (so they can Google me like crazy after the event); and 3) one interesting fact about me, a fact that often causes the other person to ask, “How in the world do you transform students into professionals?” As soon as that question’s asked, I can start selling my services.
Before you attend a networking event, carefully consider the descriptor you intend to use. View it as your own 30-second commercial. Create one that will help you become memorable.
I know, research requires extra time, and that may be the one item that every student and new professional lacks. Trust me on this: To the extent you invest time in research before an event, you significantly increase the likelihood that you will gain a return. Following are the three areas on which your research should focus:
Your host or hostess. If you don’t already have a relationship with you host or hostess, spend some time on Google or Bing and learn everything you can about the person who has invited you to the event.
Years ago, when I was a law student in Washington, DC, I undertook some research that revealed all sorts of commonalities with a host who I saw as a potential employer: both of us had studied at George Washington University Law School; both had graduated from the University of Missouri; both had attended the same high school in Kansas City. Upon meeting one another, we even discovered that we had studied under the same high school debate coach. Those connections paved the wave for a conversation and the beginnings of a relationship.
The invitee list. From the host or hostess, request a copy of the invitee list. Research the list to establish whether you have connections or commonalities with another guest. Your research may reveal that you were both members of the same sorority or fraternity. Or maybe your research will reveal that you both worked as interns in Los Angeles or New York City. Look for any nugget of information that you can use to start a conversation.
The event location. I know, I’m suggesting you research to the nth degree, and with good reason. If you undertake this extra bit of effort, and if you become involved in a conversation that starts to lag, then you have in your possession one additional tidbit that you can use to reinvigorate the exchange.
Because of my preparations for a networking event, I know that New York City’s MetLife building was once the Pan Am Building, and that helicopter flights once whooshed people from a rooftop helipad, until a terrible disaster occurred in the 1970s. For some, it’s a fascinating conversation starter.
Prepare some questions you can ask anyone
Develop some questions you can ask virtually anyone.
What department do you work in?
What do you like most about the company or firm?
Have you always lived in Houston?
What’s your commute like?
If you’re an introvert, these questions can become absolute lifesavers. The truth is that most of the people you encounter at networking events love to talk about themselves. To the extent you ask one of these people a question that encourages them to talk, you will suddenly be viewed as among the best conversationalists around.
Benjamin Franklin is thought to have first said, “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail." Before you attend your next networking event, make sure you’re prepared to succeed.
What You Need to Know
Prepare for every networking event by developing an introduction that includes a memorable descriptor. Then research you host/hostess, other guests and the event location and prepare some questions you can ask anyone.
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