Make a plan!
1. Get the attendee list early, if you can, and look up the people you are most interested in.
If you can get the list of attendees before the meeting, you can look them and their companies up online and have even more to ask about. And you can approach the people you have already decided you want in your network.
2. Get there early and look over the room, the venue and the crowd.
Get there early enough to find the bathroom (you never know when someone else will need that bit of information) and look over the room. You may find that you are a bit overdressed and could remove your jacket or otherwise change your appearance.
3. Speak to every person standing by themselves.
They are probably a bit nervous and will be glad to have someone approach them or, if it is early, they will not yet be in a large group.
4. Build their network too
Remember that you are building both your own network and theirs, so see if you know anyone who might be of interest to them.
5. Give and gather at least 3 cards.
Aim for at least 3 cards from every event, but raise that as you get more comfortable. There is a limit – you don’t want to simply rush from person to person, grabbing cards. You will need to respond to each one of them within a few days so don’t get more than you can reply to. (more on this in another post) Take enough cards for when people approach you!
6. Ask them what they do and what is happening at their company.
People love to talk about themselves and what they do. Let them start first – some people will never ask what you do, putting you ahead of the game by getting information from them. You may not even need that “elevator speech” you sweated over. It could go, “I see that you are from X company – what do you do there?” What you are giving at this point is attention and interest – and we all need both of those! Don’t approach someone and beg or deliver your sales pitch – they don’t know yet if they care about you at all. Remember that equal exchange – no one hires because you need a job.
7. Approach and speak with the speaker
Comment on something that they said, ask a question for further clarification and get their card. Make notes on the back of the card and send an email the next day.
What do you usually do?