In a previous post, I wrote about the important role networking and educational events can play in a woman’s professional development and how to choose the right events to attend. However, if you think simply identifying an event, registering for it and then showing up is enough, think again. It’s a mistake to attend events that do not align with your overall goals. So prepare any events you do attend a success by having a plan.
Here are some things to consider:
- You are there to learn. While this may be obvious for seminars and conferences, it is equally as true for networking events. Why? Because networking is about making connections—about discovering what other people need and can offer so that you build a mutually beneficial long-term relationship. The golden rule: listen more than you talk. Asking open-ended questions about a person’s business is a great way to convey interest.
- You are there to make an impression. Dress appropriately and professionally. When you look your best you exude self-confidence—something that can translate into boosting your visibility and creating more opportunities. Also be prepared to describe your business or what you do in 10–15 words, and make sure that you have business cards and other materials you would like to share.
- You are there to meet new people. Move around. Mingle. It’s okay to spend time with people you already know during walk-around networking time (there’s always room to strengthen relationships), but sit with people you don’t know for table discussions, breakout groups and dinners. Also, don’t spend too much time with any one person, and if possible, help other people make new connections by introducing them to your existing contacts. It will be appreciated.
- You are there to grow. Whether you’re trying to win new business or develop new skills, events merely serve as an introduction. The meaningful work happens when you get back home or to the office. To apply what you learn, develop an action plan. Are there books you need to read, tactics to implement in the office or a schedule you need to create to help keep you healthier and more productive? To benefit from the connections you’ve made, send follow up notes within a few days of the event closing and make sure you personalize it with details from your conversation. Just as important as your initial follow up is staying in touch. Set a calendar reminder to check in with all of your contacts every couple of months to share news and see how they are doing.
Margaret Thatcher once said: “Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.”
Chances are, if you really look around at the days when you’ve accomplished the most, you’ll find you probably haven’t done it on your own. You’ve done it with a little help from your friends—the personal and professional network of people you’ve surrounded yourself with who help you be a better you. The goal of attending events is to expand that network and find opportunities where you can do for others what they do for you—create opportunities for growth. That’s how we all become better.
Guest author: Rani Ristau, Manager, Nottingham Branch, KeyBank