Networking is a crucial component to any entrepreneur’s success, yet there are no boxes to check off or steps to take that end with a successful networking gold star. How you choose to go about networking is up to you. The only thing you need to ensure is that your networking is ultimately beneficial. One easy way to get started is by attending your first networking event. As its name implies, a networking event is simply a gathering of like-minded individuals hoping to gain knowledge and make meaningful contacts to further their professional goals.
Like any other meeting or function, you need to prepare beforehand. Keep in mind that the whole point of a networking event is to get you and your brand out into the world and make meaningful connections with potential referral or business partners. Not only will you need to present yourself well during the event, but before and after as well.
1. Sort Out Your Social Media
The whole point of networking is to make meaningful connections. Chances are, someone you talk to will go right to your social media pages. While most people maintain their professional persona on LinkedIn, neglecting other accounts like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram could cost you some valuable PR points. The former might brand you as a hardworking professional, but if your other profiles contradict this, it might cast some doubt about your character.
This isn’t to say you can’t have a personal life or display your interests and activities outside of work, but keep in mind that some stuff is better left undocumented. Try performing a social media self audit to see how you size up and take care of any red flags before someone else finds them.
2. The Tried and True Art of the Business Card
Business cards might seem a bit old-fashioned, especially for younger entrepreneurs, but they remain a staple of a networker’s toolbox. They are the easiest way to share contact info (and win free lunches at most restaurants). Order some if you don’t have them already and make sure you have plenty to go around.
While business cards are traditional, it doesn’t mean their design needs to be. Business cards are great place to demonstrate your personal or company brand. Bring your cards into this century by adding your Twitter handle, Instagram account, or other social media. Need some inspiration? Check out some of these cool business cards designs.
3. Practice (and Planning) Make Perfect
If you’re feeling nervous about your first networking event, try rehearsing what you want to say. Rehearsing in front of the mirror, in the shower, or in the car on the way to the event itself are all great ways to smooth out your pitch and nervous stomach butterflies. A well thought-out “elevator pitch,” or speech you can say in 60 seconds or less, about yourself or your company can go a long way. For one thing, you won’t have to search for the right thing to say in the moment and you’ll be able to skip some of the initial awkwardness when speaking with someone new.
However, don’t make the conversation all about you. It’s important to have a conversation and you’ll definitely annoy folks if you talk about yourself the entire time. Make sure to ask thoughtful questions and summarize what someone says. This demonstrates you’re actively listening and care about what that person has to say. It might sounds like a no-brainer, but if you’re feeling a bit nervous, it can be easy to carried away.
Along with practicing what you’ll say at a networking event, it’s not a bad idea to do a little research beforehand. What will the event’s set up look like? Will there be formal speeches? What’s the event’s theme? Knowing all of this helps you tailor your elevator pitch and informs you on how you can benefit from the event. Try Googling some of the event’s attendees if you can and try to identify a few people you know you’ll definitely want to talk to. Going into a networking event with a gameplan will ground your experience and help you leave with some meaningful connections.
Jump Into Your First Networking Event at Ascender
At Ascender, we offer a number of monthly events geared and helping you network and grow your business or company. From our Starter Series that focuses on the crucial elements of starting a new business, our Builder Series to help you understand every element of running a successful company, to monthly themed programming on every topic under the sun. Check out our full calendar of events here to get started on your first networking experience.