Having a mission or goal helps others help you
You can strive to make in-person networking less stressful, more productive and, dare I say it, even enjoyable by setting goals.
Having a mission or goal will help create focus, which also usually helps relieve nervousness. Whatever you do, keep your expectations reasonable and don’t let your valuable time and energy at in-person networking events ever be wasted.
Some example goals to set include:
- Meeting and/or getting to know specific people
- Qualifying prospective employees or hiring managers
- Collecting certain information
- Offering help to at least 2 people that share a problem you can solve
- Developing current or new business relationships, as well as mutually supportive friendships
- Making plans for a coffee date with a contact you always seem to bump into
- Researching and/or meeting your competitors
Let’s say you set a goal to meet and chat with at least two new people and you want at least one of them to be someone that could benefit from your knowledge about benefits administration. While you’re chatting up the first one and learning about their goals for the event, be sure to tell them about your own goal to meet and offer help to at least two people. They’ll likely intro you to someone they’ve already met or point you in the direction of someone that looks like they could use a friendly introduction.
And, remember, one of the advantages of in-person networking events is that once you tell one person you meet what you’re looking for, if you’ve made a good impression, they’ll likely suggest other people find you as they work their way around the event. Folks often do this when they hear someone new to them speak of something related to you or your recently shared goal.
Let’s say you have the need for an employee referral into the hot new game development shop in town and you know they are currently hiring, and it’s for something perfectly suited for you, such as a game producer. As you prepare for the upcoming event you heard they’ll be sponsoring, be sure to set a goal for yourself that you’ll share your plans for a change in your employment with at least two people. You can then encourage the folks you meet to give you a heads up should they learn that a) they either have a connection that can potentially help you or, b) if they soon meet someone new who can.
Align with your hosts
Another savvy thing to do is to introduce yourself to the sponsor and thank them for sponsoring. Then, find out why they chose to align with that particular organization or group and what kind of help they need right now. These folks are essentially co-hosting the event and want you to have a great time so engaging them will often result in a mutually beneficial connection.
Lastly, don’t bother trying to collect 20 business cards because you won’t likely be able to develop a connection with more than half of them, and then if you don’t follow-up with those remaining 10 people you may have now created an impression worse than if you never met them.
What about you? What types of goals do you usually set before attending an out-of-town conference or an association luncheon? Feel free to share your comments on this post over on LinkedIn.
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