RewardMe Networking: Professional Events
This is where the real game goes. In previous situations, the people you are networking with are either people you already know, will have to interact with, or people who might not care whatsoever. When you attend professional events, you meet people who are productive, solid or at least interested in their professional careers, and most of all, people who care about networking too!
First of all, I highly recommend you to go to as many professional events as possible. Professional events include speaker events, networking events, or trade shows for your appropriate industry. It is also recommended to have your supply of business cards, so people can remember you better.
In professional events, it is EXTREMELY important to be initiative and conduct yourself in a confident manner. Most people there are hunting for more connections, and you want to look like a good target. You need to forget about the harmless dragon. Just walk to someone, introduce yourself, and engage in a conversation of learning more about each other. Don’t try to get everyone. Try to establish a couple good relationships with the people there so it only becomes natural for you to send a follow up email greeting afterwards.
Each talk should at least be 3-5 minutes long. In this case it is very much like random networking, but your questions and topic will be more geared towards the professional side. Unless you appear arrogant, people will usually respect your confidence and treat you as an equal. At the same time, show respect for what the other person has accomplished and be willing to learn from him/her. If you feel that the person did something impressive, it never hurts to give a compliment. Most people are happy when you confirm to them about their abilities and accomplishments, especially when they were begging for someone to notice it/them. A simple sentence can change much of one’s mood. Don’t suck up, but let what you believe is true slip out naturally and easily. Be straightforward in compliments.
When in a speaker event, it is usually wise to meet someone new before the speaker starts to talk. Use the exact same method as before and introduce yourself, exchange business cards (not contact information yet if you don’t have business cards). When the speaker event starts, sit next to this new friend. Even though the two of you will probably not be interacting in the event, just acknowledging each other on the side for a longer period of time builds an appreciation than simply meeting and parting.
After the speaker event, when you are about to depart, and you don’t have business cards yet, you could offer to exchange contact information. If you have done what we have covered in previous chapter correctly, they most likely would be willing to exchange contact information. You just made another friend.
In a speaker event, the speaker is obviously very important too. After you listen to his/her speech, it’s a good idea to go up and thank him/her. Introduce yourself while you are at it, and ask for a business card. Many people do speaker events just to network too! They usually happily give you one when they have it (you would be surprised by how many professionals who don’t have it).
After the professional event, you should always send follow-ups to people you newly met through email or what seems to be appropriate. Just send a simple note saying “hey, it was nice meeting you today! Just checking if this email address works” or something along those lines. Remind them of who you are and ask to stay in touch. If you are emailing the speaker, then you could include what he said in his speech. People appreciate it when you remember what they said (especially when everyone else was drooling their nice suits wet).
When you send these follow-ups, don’t expect a reply. Replies only come from great people; not all speakers are great people. As mentioned before, think about how long does it take for you to reply to a friend? Maybe sometimes you forget after awhile? When this happens, it depends on how important do you think the person is, but I recommend sending a second or even third round of emails after a month or two. Maybe then they’ll be interested in replying (this is when the discipline of persistence becomes handy). Just remember to always stay sincere and polite.