Spring is right around the corner which means the networking season will soon be upon us. These events offer us an opportunity to leave the office early and mingle with peers and decision makers (i.e., those that could hire you someday). Unfortunately, we have all done things that could give someone the wrong impression within the first two minutes of meeting them. Remember, it’s not just about “who you know.” The “why they know you” part can be just as important (i.e., try not to be remembered as the person that passed out on the 18th green at a networking golf event). With that mind, please consider the following do’s and don’ts of attending networking events:
Do have a responsible drink. Don’t shot gun as many free beers as you can in two hours. Networking events are supposed to be fun. If you like to have a drink while having fun than have one. Also, standing in line for a drink can be a great place to meet people without that awkward moment of asking them if you can join their table (strike up conversation and then just follow them to their table!)
Do have a goal or objective for attending. Free food and drink is awesome and can be a reason for attending, but don’t make it THE reason for attending. Choose a simple goal such as to collect a business card from at least two manager level professionals. Don’t leave the event until you have achieved your goal (Seriously, stay until they close the doors if you have to. I have done this and I guarantee that you will meet good people when tear down of the event starts – usually people that hosted the event and are on Boards that you could/should get involved with.)
Do bring business cards. Social media is a great tool. You may be able to remember everyone that you met so that you can look them up on LinkedIn, but keep in mind – you are likely just one of 20 people that your new contact met that night. They probably won’t remember you until they go through the stack of cards they find in their pocket the next day (especially if you met them after the 3rd or 4th glass of wine). Plus, even if you don’t “network” at your networking event, at least throw a card in the fish bowl for a chance at a door prize!
Do “work the room”. Don’t rush through introductions and conversations in an effort to meet every person at the event. Keep your goal or objective in mind while “working the room” but don’t be afraid to spend the majority of your time with just a couple of people. There may be events where one or two people take up the majority of your time, but if you recognize them as important decision makers and they land you an interview or become a client then your time was well spent and the event was a success!
Do dress accordingly. Try to find out what other people will be wearing. If you can’t decipher the dress code by the invite, ask people that have attended in years past. You don’t want to be underdressed, but it can also be important to not overdress. I’m sure no one would judge you for being overdressed – they may just assume that you came from an important business meeting – but being the only person in the room in a suit may make you feel discomfited which may make it difficult to be social and to network.
Don’t neglect your personal hygiene. Do take gum, mints, Listerine strips, etc., especially if you plan to enjoy food and drink!