I recently attended the Greenville chapter of Tech After Five. My goal was to use this as a networking opportunity to meet new people in the industry. Within any industry, connections are crucial. The connections made could become a future client, a mentor, or even someone to bounce business ideas off of.
Before You Attend
If you attend a networking event, there are several things you can do ahead of time that will help you make the most of the event.
First is research. Research the networking event you are going to attend. See if there is an agenda and if they provide you with an attendee list. Both will help you go into the event with a plan to begin with and help you have a good basis for the remainder of the event.
Second is a good business card. Simple. Basic. Business cards help make quick connections without having to pull out phones or quickly jot down someone’s information.
Third is an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a quick summation of who you are or your business is, what you do or what your business does, and, if you have time, anything else that makes you or your business unique.
At the event itself it is key to be relaxed and ready to talk to people. If there is only a limited amount of time, particularly if the networking event is part of another event, such as a conference, you may have a few select people you particularly would like to meet. Tech After Five was a great opportunity that provided a good span of time to talk to people during the event, and then there was a group that invited everyone to walk over to the restaurant next door to continue networking on a more personal level. This was especially encouraged for newcomers. Also, I found it very beneficial when regular members of the event reached out to me and gave me advice on how to network to the greatest potential. The first tip I was given was to really listen so that you can introduce the person you are talking to to another person. This makes people really feel heard and like the connection made is a solid one. Next I was told that once you have made a connection between two people, you should walk away to network and meet new people. Another tip was to always be looking to help. This could mean finding someone you could help on a project or maybe you met someone who could help a previous connection on a project. The perfect example occurred when someone I met at the beginning of the event pulled me into a conversation with someone new who could possibly use Credo’s skills to get a project done. The man who introduced me did not specialize in concierge software service, but remembered that Credo does and made sure to make the connection. Networking is truly about people helping people.
Making it Count
A networking event fails, and you have fallen short as an attendee, if you do not follow up and truly connect with your newfound connections. Walking out of a networking event you should have several new business cards. What do you do with them? Follow up! Look these people up on LinkedIn, maybe shoot them an email if you talked about a specific project to work on, but certainly do not the just let them collect dust on your counter at home. Those business cards and connections are invaluable.
A truly beneficial networking event, like Tech After Five, will not just be a one-time event. Tech After Five meets once a month in Greenville, and I fully intend to go again. Even if the event you attend is only once a quarter or once a year, particularly if it is in a conference setting, you should attempt to strengthen your connections by returning. Also, by returning, you may be connected to other networking events. While at Tech After Five, I found out about the Greenville chapter of Women Who Code – yet another amazing way to get plugged into the industry.
Connections are what make the business world go ‘round and are truly the most invaluable thing your company can invest in. I highly recommend finding networking opportunities in your industry. If you happen to be in tech around the Greenville area – check out Tech After Five!