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There are a great many things that individuals should do to plan for an event. But even the attendees, who may be entirely uninvolved in planning the execution of the event, need to take some time to prepare. Merely attending an event is not enough; there must be careful planning and intention to ensure that you’re networking effectively and getting the most value out of your time.
Prior to the Event
Real networking starts before the event. To get the most out of an event, you must know what you want to achieve and make a plan around it. Having a plan will guide your decisions and create focus on what is important.
In creating a networking plan, there are several details that should be considered and researched. For example, are there specific individuals you’d like to seek out at this event? If so, you should make note of this and consider prioritizing your time with these individuals. Additionally, be aware of the industry leaders attending the event, along with the companies that will be represented so as to enhance your awareness of those around you at the event.
Additionally, don’t forget to consider what your time is worth when coming up with your game plan. Your time is valuable, and networking events should be navigated efficiently to ensure your time is spent wisely. Take into account travel time to your event and ensure that you’ll be able to maximize your time accordingly. Don’t be afraid to ask for a list of the industry representatives that will be in attendance and contact them in advance to discuss their participation prior to determining if an event will be worth the travel and time. If you determine you should attend, try to plan on visiting other partners in the area, and even consider bringing along multiple co-workers to maximize the time spent away from the office. Being intentional in your actions can ensure that you truly benefit from attending.
During the Event
During the event you’re attending, it’s important to follow the plan you made prior. However, you should certainly allow some space for flexibility, to allow for extra maneuvering just in case there are any unexpected hiccups. This flexibility can allow you to network more with other individuals you meet, or it can allow for time spent adjusting to the dynamic of the event itself.
Additionally, during the event, be sure to keep track of how much time you’re spending with each company or individual. You don’t want to spend all your time on one person or company, even if the conversation is going well. At networking events, the time you’re spending with one individual means time lost with any others, so ensure that you’re conversing effectively with the right individuals. Don’t be afraid to politely excuse yourself from a lengthy conversation, but be sure to warmly invite them to reconnect again after the event. Swap business cards and other contact information, and be sure to make a note to reach back out to them after the event is over.
If you’ve brought coworkers along, try to divide and conquer. Avoid joining conversations they’re already engaged in – you should be able to trust your coworkers to be championing as hard for your company as you, so there’s no need to intervene. You can get much more completed and accomplished by branching out and approaching different individuals.
After the Event
In most cases, you went to a professional event because someone invited you, or because it was hosted by an organization of which you may be a member. If you were invited, however, consider that this person thought of you and believed that your presence would add value to the event, or that you might benefit greatly. Do not overlook this, or you may miss out on strengthening that relationship. After the event has concluded, you should reach back out and send a personalized thank you note to anyone who may have been instrumental in aiding your attendance. This will help to demonstrate your dedication to helping your partner’s business thrive. For new contacts from the event, be sure to send LinkedIn invitations or emails with a brief review of what was discussed and how you believe you can help them or their business. You will build trust by offering to help them before asking for any favors for yourself. This will communicate the fact that you’re interested in remaining in touch with this person beyond this individual event and build rapport.
For any individuals you particularly feel you should stay in contact with, be sure to connect regularly through social media outputs and consider offering them any additional contact information of yours to let them know that your door to the relationship is wide open.
Any event that you attend is an investment; it takes time, effort and resources like any other investment, and you must be sure to maximize on the ROI opportunities. Take initiative to build a larger network of trusted business partners and associates. Your personal success can be determined by the relationships that you are able to create and nurture, and it’s important to work to connect and maintain these relationships through effective networking.