Before you attend a meeting, research who is organizing it. Research the speakers, the topics, and the issues relevant to the meeting. Everything is on line and easy to find and your research. Much of the information you learn will lead to opportunities for you to start a conversation with others at the meeting. Be prepared with “get to know you” questions to ask individuals beyond information about the organization or event. These can be questions related to the work they do or to family, travel, hobbies, or favorite books or movies.
Set a goal before you leave the office to meet two new people at any given event. You can certainly meet more-however, your goal is to meet just two new people with whom you will engage in conversation, ask some open-ended questions, and exchange pleasantries. If there is a reason to meet again, send a note, e-mail, call, text or link in to set up a follow-up meeting over breakfast or lunch. In any event, send a short “thank you for your time and conversation” to the two people even if there is no future meeting. This is just common courtesy and will serve you well as a respected business person.
The key is to set a goal to make a target number of quality connections at every meeting, gathering, or event you attend. It is also a great time to reconnect with those you already know at an event. While meeting and connecting with new people is an important part of networking, staying in touch and nurturing relationships with those you already know is the true key and relationship building factor. And be sure to follow-up.