Networking Tips for Business Events

Even when the event is prearranged, like a professional dinner or meet-up, networking is difficult for some people, but by following these dos and don'ts you can make the event go smoothly.

Dos

  • Begin by picking relevant events to your professional goals. Depending on where you live, there are probably hundreds of networking events that can help you advance you career and make more contacts. Select and attend the networking events that are most relevant to your plans. For example, if you are looking for a new job, attend networking events where other professionals in your field will congregate, such as professional membership lunches and conferences in your field, because that is where you will hear about relevant job offers, unlike a generic meet-up or class.
  • Exchange business cards. It is surprising how many times people forget their business cards. When you have a great conversation with someone, or if they just ask for your card, you should have professional business cards with your name, services and contact information on them so they can follow up with you. If someone mentions a job offer to you at a business event, it is not yet appropriate to give them your resume, even if you have copies, but your card should be enough that they can follow up with you, or you can get their card and follow up with them.
  • Go with a friend or a colleague. Don't be a wallflower: go with a friend or a colleague to the business event so you have someone to engage in conversation with. Standing alone means you aren't having an exciting conversation that people are overhearing and want to join. Pick someone who can talk about professional events and general interest topics, material that interests other people, but a person who won't be indiscreet or reflect badly on you as a companion. 
  • Give as much, or more, than you get. During your conversations, you discover that you can help some of your partners more than they can help you. Don't shrug them off as business contacts: offer them help. At a professional meeting you can't see who a person's second degree contacts are; for example, the person you are speaking with is the best friend of a hiring manager at a company you want to work for. All of your relationship building can lead to future client contacts and friendships, so encourage exchange, not exploitation.

Don't

  • Networking isn't advertising. Lead with conversation, not with your elevator speech. Allow conversation to flow to your goals for attending the event, but if it doesn't happen, get your points for being an amiable person, someone who looks like a good networker and relationship builder.
  • Monopolize. Realize that if you feel you haven't succeeded unless you have used your elevator speech on everyone, know that you are getting a reputation as an egomaniacal boor. People don't want to foster new relationships with rude people; they are trying to get rid of the jerks they already have to deal with.
  • Drink too much alcohol. One drink is enough to be social and keep your hands busy. You don't look like a good business contact if you can't control yourself. You can also abstain from alcohol entirely, and have your beers with friends at the game. Excessive alcohol intake has ruined more than one person's chances to make a good first impression.