I am often asked to share my Networking Checklist which can be used and modify for any event you will attend. With summer kicking into season, you will most likely be going to different parties, celebrations and events of all types.
Be prepared to maximize your time.
I have broken the checklist into 3 parts over the next few weeks– Today is on what to do before you even arrive at the event.
BEFORE YOU GO:
? Set a goal for the event. Make it specific and strategic to your business situation and needs. Be realistic and know that for your goal to be a reality you must follow-up and take the action steps after the event.
? Do your research. Find out all you can about the event including any interesting facts about the location, its purpose, the organization sponsoring and people likely to attend. Then ask yourself, “what is my reason for attending this event and what is my networking potential”. Check the website to find out who the organizer is; who is on the advisory board, and what the mission and agenda is. Learn as much as you can in advance. If you are hosting, you have the opportunity to research all those invited.
? Identify who you’d like to meet. Think strategically about those attending. Set a goal to research 3-5 people you would ideally like to meet. Also consider calling or emailing ahead to introduce yourself to those hosting or planning the event—you will differentiate yourself.
? Prepare your “opening line.” Think in advance of what you will say as you meet people for the first time. Think ‘open-ended’ questions to start a conversation.
- What brought you here today?
- Hello, I don’t believe we have met yet, “I’m _____ from ____ and you are?”
? Have a list of “get to know you questions.” Prepare some questions that help you build rapport as you are connecting and keep the conversation going. From your research in advance about the group and association, you will already have some material to frame your questions.
- What brought you to the meeting?
- I’m thinking of joining the group. Are you a member? Tell me a bit about what you like.
- What are some trends you are seeing in your business?
- How would I know if I’m speaking to someone you would like to meet or could possibly become a client for you or your business?
- How long have you lived in the community?
- What other questions would you add?
? Develop a list of “idea generator topics (small talk).” Become conversant about current affairs, best-selling books, movies, business news, the market, and certainly the latest news and trends in your industry and your special niche. Keep a running journal of such topic ideas organized by subject so you are always prepared. Everyday read your preferred news medium for general news, industry news, and firm news—so you have topics ready to discuss.
? Prepare a thirty second introduction talk about yourself. Be ready to easily and confidently answer the inevitable question of “What do you do?” Plan positive and interesting “sound bites” and a provocative Value Proposition about you and your firm that will get people interested enough to get to know you better. Practice your sound bite so that it flows. It should vary according to the event, audience, and person you are talking with. The core message will be consistent—yet practice how you can change accordingly. Say only enough to create interest and then move the conversation to what the other person does. Reminders as you prepare:
- Who are you?
- Who do you work with (target market)? (your niche)
- What solutions do you provide?
- What is the benefit you offer?
- What differentiates you?
? Decide on your “signature prop.” What is your “signature prop”? It is a conversation starter.
? Prepare your “tangible tool kit.” Keep these handy to help you meet and follow-up with ease.
- Grooming essentials – simple and often overlooked.
- Business cards – an adequate supply, in good condition, always have them with you.
- Two card cases – take one for your cards and one for those you collect (keep in separate pockets).
- A nice pen – an accessory for your image.
- A small notepad – to jot down things you learn immediately after speaking with someone that you will follow up with.
- Note cards and stamps – be prepared with the note cards stamped and you can easily follow up immediately with a quick thank you note to those you connected with.
Next week we will talk about what to do- when you actually arrive at the event …. Stay tuned.