Networking Events 101
My Twitter friend Cd, aka @thatwoman_soho, invited me to attend a really cool networking event at The Aon Center’s Mid-America Club last week. I was mostly excited to go just for the opportunity to meet Cd in person as I really respect her work and had talked to her online and on the phone but had not met her in person. Therefore, I didn’t think much about how to prepare for the event.
Since it has been a while since I have attended such a formal networking event (and also because I was definitely the youngest person in the room!) I wanted to share a few things that I learned from the event.
Bring more than enough business cards. Although I wasn’t the only person who ran out of cards towards the end of the event, I really regret not bringing more. By the end of the event I was finally getting into the groove and of course that is precisiely when I ran out of cards.
Practice your pitch. The people around me at the event were networking event pros. They had practiced, revised, and memorized their carefully crafted explanations about what they do. As a newcomer and “youngin” I must admit that some of the people sounded a bit too rehearsed for my liking. At the same time, they probably sounded a lot smoother than I did at the beginning of the event.
You may want to bring more than one type of business card. This may not apply to everyone. I am a Commercial Banker by day, and obviously a blogger by night. Therefore, I have a bank business card and a Ms. Career Girl card (in which I’m not sure exactly what purpose it serves other than being completely ADORABLE). I initially went there thinking I would only use my blog biz cards, but thankfully I had some of my bank cards in my purse as a lot of people were interested in connecting with me for banking purposes. To take this lesson a step further, I wish I would’ve created a different business card and brought that instead. Handing out two different cards which are for completley different purposes may have confused some of the people I met. I have since created a new business card for future events using 123print.com.
Get ready to be judged on your appearance. Small details matter and people at networking events aren’t shy about paying attention to them. Chipped nails, gross hair, ripped nylons, or not being able to walk in your shoes are bad news for networking events ladies. I’d even go as far as recommending that you wear something that sets you apart such as a bright shirt, scarf or a great piece of jewelery.
LISTEN. I found myself wanting to interrupt (the Italian in me comes out sometimes) but it was obvious that listening made people respect me even more than talking. People love talking about themselves, so let them.
When networking with women, the best ice breakers are compliments. Towards the end of the event, we were doing an activity in which my group happened to be 4 women and 1 man. After a few minutes, the group separated and the women were paired off, and poor Spencer was left in the middle feeling akward. He interupted our chatty banter and asked what he did wrong in this situation to be singled out. We explained that we all started talking because someone complimented our suit, shoes, or jewelry and that it was not at all his fault. This leads us to to the next lesson…
It’s ok not to be all business. Obviously you need to keep it professional, but having a personality is what will make people remember you and want to contact you after the event. People do business with PEOPLE, not with companies, brands or titles. Talking about someone’s kids, where you both went to college, or your love for the Cubs might be what ends up giving you a better lead than spewing off your verbal resume.