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In-person networking events can cause apprehension for even the most experienced executives. However, attending such events can have a huge impact on your career trajectory, so it is vital that executives should make time for networking in their schedules.

Even if you are not actively seeking a new role, it is important to start building your network as soon as possible. The key to efficient networking has always been to build a network before you need one. It is vital to remember that networking should always be a mutually beneficial practice and you should try to have something to offer those you are seeking to connect with.
While online networking has increased in popularity in recent years and can help with making connections quickly, in-person networking helps to develop deeper relationships. Therefore, it is advisable to integrate both into your career management strategy.

executive_search_consultants_networkingTo assist you in your goal to become a master networker, here is a step-by-step guide to navigating an in-person event, courtesy of BlueSteps.

For more in-person event networking tips, register for the complimentary BlueSteps webinar: “In-Person Events: How to Network and Follow-up”.

1. Pre-Event Preparation
Before you attend the event, it is wise to set reasonable expectations and make a plan of who you are aiming to connect with. Having a plan with purpose will help you to achieve your networking target. In order to prepare in advance, you might choose to contact the event organizer and request a list of fellow attendees for a more targeted approach. Searching the event on social media can be a useful way to see if others have mentioned the event and are planning on attending too.
Another way to prepare pre-event is by reading up on industry research and related news articles. This will help you to speak intelligently about trends and issues that could be of interest to those you are networking with. By having informed discussed based on your reading, you will be seen as someone who is worth connecting with.

Make sure you plan an outfit that is appropriate for the event. It is always better to dress more formally and conservatively, than to underdress. Never underestimate the power of a good first impression.

Finally, prepare a list of questions that you want to ask and practice them. You may also find it helpful to prepare a short summary of who you are and what you do, an elevator pitch, so that you can showcase your skills and experience in a succinct way.

2. When You Arrive
Be one of the first people to arrive at the event. This will allow you to meet people at a slower pace without having to infiltrate existing groups and have to work your way into conversations.
You should locate and introduce yourself to the host of the event. As the event organizer, they will usually have a full list of attendees and will be more than happy to make suggestions of who you should connect with. They can make introductions for you too to make the task of networking even easier. However, while at the event, do not feel pressured to work the room. Your goal is to make several quality connections, not quantity.

3. Tips For Event Networking
Get to know the other person first. As a general rule, people love to talk about themselves and their business. By asking questions about them, you not only prove yourself to be a good listener, but you can also calculate if they would be a good connection for you.

Once you have asked them questions about what they do and what challenges they are currently facing, you can give them a reason to connect with you. As mentioned earlier, networking is all about mutually beneficial relationships, so be prepared to offer your network and support to others to help them. People remember those who helped them and they will be more likely to offer their help to you in return.

As you make new contacts, it is important to keep track of them as you go along. Collect business cards and jot down relevant notes immediately after networking to help you frame what you might write to them in a subsequent follow-up email.

4. When You Get Home
Using the business cards that you will have collected during the event, and the key information that you have recorded about each person, you will be able construct personalized emails for each contact. In your emails, you should introduce yourself, remind them of where you met, and perhaps give them some information that would be of benefit to them, including links to articles you may have mentioned, webinars, or names of people who could help them.

It is advisable to email your new contacts within 24 hours after meeting them and possibly end with a comment about catching up again in a few months if appropriate. You might also wish to make a note in your calendar to remind you to follow up with them in three or four months.

5. Post-Event Activities
Aside from following up with new connections via email, you should consider using social media to your advantage. You can search for your new contacts using LinkedIn. When you send them an invitation to connect via LinkedIn, be sure to personalise the pre-set message. If your new connection is in from the same industry as you, you should also check out the LinkedIn groups that they belong to, as these groups might also be advantageous to you too.

Last, but not least: you can increase your visibility further by volunteering to speak at professional events, publishing articles online, blogging, and commenting in LinkedIn discussions.

For more in-person event networking tips, register for the complimentary BlueSteps webinar: “In-Person Events: How to Network and Follow-up”.

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