7 Things You Need Before Your First Networking Event

So, you’re getting ready for your first networking event. Maybe this is your chance to make your mark and get your name and your business out there in front of those who matter and can support you in growing and thriving along your journey. But it can be very nerve-wracking, especially if you’ve never done anything like this before. I mean, you’re facing a room of people you don’t know and who matter to your future. They can make or break you, so it’s important to make a good first impression, all while managing your own anxiety over the new situation.

first networking event
Photo by Matheus Bertelli: https://www.pexels.com/photo/group-of-people-standing-inside-room-2608517/

Preparation is vital to easing your anxiety and making a good impression at your first networking event. But what exactly do you need to prepare for the event? What should you bring, if anything, and what do you need to know prior to arriving? These tips can help you get ready for the event so you don’t squander your chance to make some valuable connections.

Preparing for your first networking event

The more preparation you do, the better you’ll feel about the event and the better you’ll do.

Clear Objectives

Every person in attendance will have their own reason for making the event, as will you. Knowing why you are going to the event and what you want to get from it can help direct your activities and behaviors and give you a goal. Maybe you want to meet certain people, collect business details for future partnerships, or simply make connections to grow a support circle in your industry. Maybe you want to pick the brains of attendees to get some insights you can use to make your business better. Whatever you want to get from the event, know it, know how to get the results and then tailor what you do around achieving this.

Remember, a networking event isn’t a time to see how many business cards you can give out or collect. Focus on building true connections with a few people during the event rather than seeing how many people you can meet. I like to go through the list of attendees, if there’s one available before the event, to see who I really want to ensure I connect with. If possible, I’ll try to think of a way to introduce myself and how we can help each other. Don’t start asking for help until you offer up something in exchange.

Not everyone on the list will actually attend, so have a few backups in case those you most want to meet don’t make it, but don’t feel like you need to meet everyone on your list. There are always more networking events, so you’ll have time to meet them if you don’t meet them at this event.

Business Cards

There is a high likelihood that you will meet many people at the event, and you will likely be giving out and collecting business cards for the duration. Not only do you need a place to store the business cards you receive, but you also need a pile to hand out. Always have more than you think you might need, and always make sure you follow the best practices for creating effective business cards and invest in quality business cards so you can ensure they make an impact in the right way, not just collect dust in a pocket or even worse, be relegated to the trash!

A Memorable Story

A good story can be a powerful tool in networking. It can help you to capture people’s attention and ensure that you are able to make connections with others. The story can be on any topic. It doesn’t need to be related to what you do, but it does need a beginning, a middle and an end and is, of course, engaging. This can help you to make a lasting impression and stand out in a sea of introductions, giving you a sense of confidence and preparedness.

A Pen

Even in a digital world, you need a pen and something to write on. Although many people will conduct business online and maybe use QR codes to share details, having a pen and something to write on can help you take notes immediately and jot down details or ideas before you forget them without fumbling with your phone or device.
A pen and notebook is an easy way to make notes and write down details about people you meet to jog your memory a few days later and give you a hook for making follow-up chats. It also shows that you are prepared and organized, which can leave a positive impression on others, making you feel ready for any follow-up conversations.

An Ice Breaker

We’ve discussed having an engaging and relatable story, but having an icebreaker can be extremely helpful for getting conversations flowing, especially since I am not naturally sociable, apprehensive, or intimidated. If applicable, you can focus on the guest speakers, discuss the weather, traffic, local events, or news stories, avoid politics and heated topics that can cause friction and divide, and stick to neutral issues and conversation starters to help you move things along as required.

Bring Your Interest

Networking and connecting with others is less about how interested you are and more about how interested you are in others, learning more, and getting something of value. With this in mind, you need to bring the interesting part of your personality to help you meet this objective. The more engaged you are with others, the more interested you are in them, the more of an impact you will make, and the more likely people will be to think of you favorably. If you’re too focused on showing people who you are and what you’re capable of rather than learning about them, you might find you don’t really get the benefits from the event. This will make you feel engaged and interested in others, enhancing your networking experience.

A good thing to keep in mind is to think about what you can do for others and how you can be of use to them and their business rather than simply looking at what you can get from this. Doing this will enable you to focus more on others and learn as much as possible.

Value

Value: Your Secret Weapon. When attending networking events, it’s not just about connecting and engaging with others. It’s also about knowing what you bring to the table and how you can benefit others. What exactly do you offer? What do you sell that could be of interest or use to others? What services can you offer, or ideas can you share to help those around you? The more value you are able to offer, the better your experience will be.>However, don’t focus on sharing this as your only talking point or reason for engaging with others; it needs to be something that works naturally in the conversation. Look for relevant openings to help assist others with any issues they mention or potential roadblocks you might notice crop up. This approach will make you feel helpful and supportive and make others more likely to remember you.

Conclusion

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it can be instrumental in helping you get in the right headspace for your first networking event. Remember that while the above points can facilitate a more fruitful time, you also need to bring your A-game. Be your best self, be confident in what you do, and be passionate about your business, and this, too, will help everything fall into place.

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