This is a guest post by Matt Heinz, founder and principal of Heinz Marketing, LLC.
You’ve seen what not to do. You’ve likely experienced it more than once. The guy who talks only about himself. The contact who’s constantly scanning the room for someone else. The sales rep who paid good money to be there, but forgot to bring business cards.
If you’re going to invest time (and money) in attending networking events, know why you’re there. Know what you want to get out of it. Know what success looks like at the end of the evening.
And while you’re there, get and give more value by following these best practices:
- Know your targets ahead of time: Who do you want to meet? What do you know about them? Could you pick them out of the room if you saw them? There are always people in the room you particularly want to speak with. Have a game plan going in.
- Have business cards: Not everyone uses them, but you never know who will want one. Even if they prefer email or LinkedIn, your card is a visual reminder of the conversation and your value.
- Be proactive but don’t interrupt: Sometimes getting into a conversation at a networking event includes joining one in progress. Don’t be afraid to step into existing conversation circles, but wait for acknowledgement (at least eye contact, if not a verbal recognition) before jumping in.
- Focus on them: No matter who you’re speaking with, show genuine interest. Ask questions, listen to the answers, offer value back.
- Be respectful: Not everyone you speak with will be high on your target list. Give everyone a few minutes, don’t blow people off immediately. You never know who they know, who they might become, and whether you might need them down the road.
- Bring something to take notes with: A folded piece of copy paper is fine. Thin Moleskine notebooks are better. Take notes, action items, and other information that you’ll forget before the end of the night.
- Follow up with a thank you: Email at minimum (a couple lines is all you need), but a hand-written card is better.
Matt Heinz is the founder and principal of Heinz Marketing LLC, a sales & marketing consulting group focused on helping clients accelerate sales, customer and revenue growth. Learn more about Heinz Marketing at www.heinzmarketing.com, or read more from Matt at www.mattonmarketingblog.com.