Corporate events have long been regarded as an important tool for broadening professional networks and expanding business. Yet it’s tough to stand out from the crowd when it comes to networking at these events. You’re not the only one at the event, which means you’re competing for attention with other attendees who are also trying to make a splash.
The good news is that even at crowded conventions, workshops, fundraisers, and seminars, you can put your best foot forward. Try the following suggestions to give yourself a powerful competitive advantage. Whether you are a seasoned professional or new to your field, these tips will help you maximize the benefits of attending corporate events.
1. Mingle, don’t linger.
You have a limited amount of time to meet and greet at events. Make the most of it by engaging in as many conversations as possible. The goal? Don’t spend more than five minutes talking to any one person. Keep the conversation light and continuous, ensuring you listen more than you talk.
What if the discussion is riveting? Wonderful! Explain that you’d like to talk further and exchange contact information. Carrying a business card with a QR code makes sharing names, numbers, and emails simple. It’s much better to end a dialogue too early than to wear out your welcome.
2. Do your research.
If you know the names of the other attendees, you’re in a prime position to make real networking strides. Set aside a couple of hours to scour LinkedIn and scribble notes. This could give you a reason to approach a specific individual or group.
Let’s say one of the guest speakers recently received a few coveted awards. You could use that fact as a springboard for discussion. For instance, you could say, “I heard you received an award for your sales numbers this year. Congratulations! Can you share any selling tips with me?”
3. Lead with compliments.
Sincere compliments allow you to approach strangers and feel less awkward. While you don’t want to go around showering everyone you see with kind words, you can make life easier by handing out strategic compliments.
To avoid sounding too personal, you should avoid complimenting a person’s physical appearance. Clothing and accessories are safe to mention, but not facial features. Try saying, “I like your tie.” or “Is that the newest iPhone?” You want to sound genuine, not like a pickup artist.
4. Avoid hard selling.
Don’t talk shop unless you’re at a sales event where the point is to exchange leads and referrals. Only ask for meetings at professional events. It’s fine to gather contact information so you can follow up later. (You should follow up with everyone within 48 hours.) However, you don’t want to be too aggressive.
Pushing too hard can be incredibly distasteful to well-known guests. Case in point: If a keynote speaker talks about writing a book, resist asking him to recommend a publishing house or read your work in progress. It’s bad form and doesn’t present you in the best light.
5. Limit your alcohol consumption.
Many corporate events have open bars or are held at places where you can buy alcohol. While you might feel more comfortable talking to people after having a drink or two, think twice. People have made judgment errors after drinking alcoholic beverages before. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, or a cocktail.
Just sip slowly and consume one drink or less per hour. You can also wait until after the event to kick back and relax at home. You don’t want to miss out on networking opportunities while you drink.
6. Act as a connector.
Want to know a networking trick? Try to connect as many people as possible at events. Every time you meet someone new, remember their name. As you meet others, aim to direct them toward people you’ve previously encountered.
For instance, if you meet someone interested in a specific topic, you can direct them to someone who’s written about that topic. Being the person who brings others together nets you an excellent reputation and even more networking opportunities.
7. Dress for the occasion.
Finally, take time to look presentable. Even if your event is online, dress well. Do your hair, steam your suit, etc. There’s no need to go overboard, but you want to avoid looking too casual.
As a side benefit, dressing well will help you feel confident. You can ride the psychological boost of looking your best from beginning to end.
Whether you’re networking online or in person, you want to make a good first impression. Making yourself more memorable means you’ll have a better chance of making connections at your next networking experience. A little time and effort could make sure you look back on your next event as a win.