How to Find and Navigate Networking Events

FT Contributor
A businesswoman listening to a person at a networking event while drinking coffee.

Networking is an extremely beneficial way to boost your career or business. It allows you to make meaningful connections with professionals in your industry who may serve as mentors, clients, and sometimes even job leads.

To build a network, you need to reach out and meet people. Networking events are a great way to do this — but how? Discover the best ways to find networking events and how to navigate them once you attend.

How to Find Networking Events

Before you begin networking, you have to find events that are going to be beneficial to you. To start, you will need to do some legwork and seek them out. Below, we’ll discuss a few tactics for finding network events.

Use Your Existing Network

Ask friends, family, and coworkers if they know of any upcoming networking events. Previous teachers, college professors, and other mentors in your life may also be a source of information when it comes to finding networking events.

Visit Networking Websites

There are many professional networking websites, such as LinkedIn, which can be very helpful for finding networking events. You should also consider using other forms of social media to network and find events. Post to social media to make others aware of your desire to attend a networking event. Someone you may not speak to regularly might know of an event that your friends, family, or coworkers may not have known about.

Once you start finding networking opportunities, future events will begin to fall into your lap.

Keep an Eye Out for Opportunities

Networking opportunities are everywhere, so it’s important to keep an eye out. Pay attention to your email inbox for any upcoming events in your neighborhood or online. Your snail mail may also contain a flyer or two about an upcoming networking event.

Scout magazines, newspapers, and local advertisements to find out about networking events near you. Your library may also have information on these kinds of events, so pay them a visit and inquire about networking opportunities in your area.

How to Thrive at Networking Events

It’s not enough to know where the networking events are, you also have to attend them. Once you’ve found an event that looks beneficial, there are several rules of thumb for how to thrive while you’re there.

Set Your Goals

Heading into a networking event blind is the worst thing you can do. Instead, determine what you want from your network and how you plan to give back. This will help you decide which individuals to approach, and how. Are you looking for a mentor? Knowing the areas that you need mentoring in will allow you to speak to them clearly. Are you looking for a new job? Decide on talking points such as what you’re looking for in a job and where you want your career to go.

Practice Your Pitch

Make sure you know how you want to address people about yourself or your business. This will help you deliver your pitch calmly and confidently. Whether you want advice on getting a small business loan, you’re looking for advertising tips, or you simply want to connect with other professionals, always outline your talking points, then practice them leading up to the event. Knowing what you want to say will help you appear confident and polished. Remember to be as concise as possible so as not to waste people’s time.

Dress Well

You don’t get a second chance at a first impression. It’s important to dress for these events professionally, or at least within the dress code. Find out beforehand what the style of dress is for the event. Abide by this, and ensure your hair, clothing, and makeup (if applicable) is clean and neat.

Show Interest in Others’ Endeavors

Someone who only talks about themselves can be off-putting. Showing interest in others and their personal passions, projects, side hustles, or careers demonstrates your kindness and tells the individual that you may be a valuable connection for them as well. While you’re networking, pay attention to the people you’re talking with. Make eye contact and contribute to the conversation in meaningful ways to let the other person know you hear them and appreciate what they’re sharing with you.

Be Assertive, Not Overbearing

It is important to be confident and let your personality type shine, but not like a blowhard. To prevent this, try to let the people you’re networking with speak first. This allows you to demonstrate that you’re interested in what they have to say and helps the conversation flow without making it seem like you only want to talk about yourself. Try not to cut them off as well, as this can be off-putting.

Take Notes

It will be difficult to remember information about so many people. Keep notes on key points of their business and any relevant connections they may have. If you can, ask for business cards and jot down specific details about your conversation. People often enjoy it when you remember little things about them.

In essence, the larger your network is, the more help or opportunities you’re bound to find within it. Whether you’re a business owner looking for funding or you’re a college grad looking to make connections, networking is vital to your success. Find networking events in your area and register to attend them. Remember these tips on navigating networking events to get the most out of your experience.

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