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How to Maximize Your Effectiveness at Networking Events

by Janet Falk

You've decided to attend a large networking event hosted by a professional organization where you are considering membership. If you're nervous in anticipation of walking into a room where you know almost no one, here are five tips to maximize your success at the event:

  1. networkingHaving pre-registered, look at the website of the organization. Make a list of the officers, board members and committee chairs; if their email addresses are not provided, contact their employer's receptionist and get their email address. With the Subject line: Will you attend the NAME OF EVENT on DATE, send a brief introductory email that describes a bit about you, plus your work with a relevant business or organization, along these lines:
    NAME,

     

    Your name came to my attention as an officer of the ORGANIZATION.

     

    I am YOUR NAME and TITLE at COMPANY/ORGANIZATION, BRIEF DESCRIPTION.

     

    Having worked with RELEVANT COMPANY/ORGANIZATION on various projects in SUBJECT AREA, I am interested in learning more about the PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATION and how I might get involved in your activities.

     

    Perhaps we can chat at the NAME OF EVENT, where I hope to meet you and your colleagues.

     

    Regards,
    YOUR NAME
    Company/Organization website in signature block

     

    Because these individuals are the leaders, movers and shakers of the host organization, they will be thrilled to hear from a potential new member and may even visit your website to learn more about you. Perhaps 60-90 percent of them will email you back with a warm welcome.

  2. Respond to their replies indicating that you will be wearing a distinctive tie or jacket at the event, so that you will be sure to spot each other.
  3. Look at the photos of the officers on the organization's website or their LinkedIn profiles before you go to the event, and bring the list of officers with you.
  4. At the event, be on the look-out for these contacts, and when you speak with them, the initial subject of the conversation is the professional organization, not yourself.  As the conversation flows freely and you collect their cards, ask them to introduce you to others in the organization. Remember, you are a prospective member, so let the officers cultivate you.
  5. Follow-up after the event, indicating what a pleasure it was to connect in person, how much you enjoyed learning about the organization and you look forward to seeing them at future events. If you have joined the organization, let them know they played a role in that decision.
This approach turns you, a newcomer, from a bystander to a focus of attention. It also creates a shared agenda of the benefits of membership and future activities of the professional organization, in which these contacts are heavily invested. Thanks to that common ground, you can sow productive networking seeds as you work toward your own goals.
 
Good luck!
 
Janet Falk provides media relations and marketing communications services for nonprofits, small businesses and consultants. Her proactive communication campaigns help them achieve their goals through expanded contact with members, prospects, supporters and influentials. Follow her on Twitter @JanetLFalk.