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Networking at Events and Large Meetings: How Do I Do It?

When groups gather, they present the opportunity to network.  Savvy job seekers seek out such
Networking uncovers opportunities!
gatherings of professionals at meetings, networking meetings, and events and . . .network.  There just might be a job in it for them!

Large networking meetings
Large networking meetings, or events, present job seekers opportunities to network.  These meetings occur for any number of reasons, and bring together a lot of people who meet and greet.

The reasons for meetings vary.  These meetings can be professional associations that offer attendees a chance to meet their colleagues in a monthly or quarterly format.  The format is often a networking hour, followed by a presenter and dinner.  Or, the venues could be conferences, training workshops, courses, trainings, presentations, product demonstrations, etc.. . .in other words, events at which a group of professionals find themselves gathered together.

Meetings can also occur for fun!  Non-professional gatherings offer just as much opportunity to network - to share your message with attendees and learn about them as well.

Think about it  – everyone you meet or interact with at, for instance, a holiday party is either working at their own job or knows someone who is.  An exchange of a few pleasantries, such as “What do you do?” can generate information about companies and organizations and can lead to contacts or introductions to people within those companies. 

So, take advantage of the opportunity to meet and greet and exchange information at parties, community celebrations, spouses company events, summer picnics, holiday events, family reunions, homeowner association meetings, civic clubs, political events, charity events, . . . all offer networking opportunities.

The message is clear
As an attendee of professional  and non-professional meetings and events, you have an opportunity to meet each other and exchange information.  How well you exchange information is the key to successful networking!   

Plan your information exchange
While the meeting and greeting may be random, or somewhat random (Please refer to I’m Networking: What do I say?), the information exchange for successful and practiced networkers is not.  They have done their homework:
        1.    Identifying who will be in the room that they can meet and talk with.  And,
        2.    Having prepared what they will say!  So, here's how to prepare for a successful networking event!

Prepare in advance to network at large meetings and events
        1.    Research the meeting/event you will be attending. 
            a.    Know its purpose, and a little of the history of the event. 
            b.    You now have a topic for conversation.

        2.    Find out who will be attending and a little bit about them. 
            a.    Learn what they do and identify an interesting fact or two about them; plan a question to ask
                   them.  Make notes. 
            b.    Find a photo or a video so you’ll be able to recognize them.  
            c.    You now have a topic for conversation when meet several attendees.

        3.    Take out and dust off your ‘L’vator speech. 
            a.    Practice, practice, practice. 
            b.    Have an answer ready to go to respond to the inevitable question:   “Nice to meet you and
                   What do you do?”  ((Please refer to Crafting Your ‘L’vator Speech.)
            c.    You now have something to say about yourself.

Strategize how you’ll “Work the Room!”
        1.    Set a goal.  How many interactions do you want to make to consider the event a success?
            a.    Start with 3 or 4 and see how it goes.  When you've accomplished your goal, you can go home,
            b.    Unless you find that with your preparation you're having such a good time that you elect to stay
                    and network some more!
        2.    Arrive early - or at least on time.
            a.    Only a few people will be milling about and it is somehow easier to talk with 2 or 3 folks than
                   when 50 folks are in the room and in their own little conversational groups.
        3.    Ask the host or event organizer if he/she needs any assistance.
            a.    This gets you talking with the organizers and seen as a helpful individual.
            b.    It also gives you something to do.

        4.    Look around the room.  Do you recognize anyone you’ve researched?
            a.    Here’s your chance to go up to them with something to say.
            b.    As you mention an article they’ve written, or an accomplishment of theirs, they will be flattered.

        5.    Exchange business cards.
            a.    Follow-up the next day with each person who’s card you collected.
            b.    Send an e-mail, note, or call stating:
                i.    How nice it was to meet them,
                ii.    Recalling something you discussed, and
                iii.    Suggesting/requesting that you continue the conversation or arrange a time to meet.
            c.    Your goal is to move the action (of your job search) forward!

        6.  Pick another event to attend and GO!  YOU'RE A NETWORKER!

Networking can be scary, but it is just a skill . . . . and skills can be learned!
Like so many things that intimidate us, networking can seem scary and hard to do, when we know little about it, and even less about how to do it.  But, having prepared in advanced to attend the event, and strategized your objective and plan to work the room, you take the first step toward success at your networking event.  Just knowing what you will say to whom and about you will reduce anxiety.

With the tips and information we’ve just discussed, you can see that like so many things, networking is just a skill and skills can be learned.  And, as with all skills, the more you practice, the better you get!
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