The pandemic isn’t over, but we’re definitely getting back to normal – or to a new normal, as some might say. This includes in-person events. If conferences and networking weren’t your favorite pre-COVID, they might be downright painful after stepping away for a few years.
They don’t have to be, though. At least not when you enter these events with a purpose. And you should always have a purpose – or why bother attending at all?
Though your purpose may vary based on the scope of the event, it will never be to simply survive the outing and return to your lair. Specific goals are great, especially when paired with a few tips that can make any event a success!
Set out to meet a certain number of people.
Whether you’re attending a keynote, panel or social event, there are endless opportunities to meet other like-minded individuals. So find a number that’s realistic, and hop to it! Maybe that number is five. Or 10. This goal can vary based on your more specific goals. For example, if you’re looking for a new referral partner or two, you may want to set your sights on maybe five agents. But if you’re helping a referral partner host an informational session on your local housing market, you may want to up that number to 10 or 12.
The actual number doesn’t matter as much as you following through on it. If your goal is five people, commit to not leaving until you’ve hit your number. These types of metrics help you determine whether the event was a success or not.
Try not to linger.
It’s time to set another numbers-oriented goal: time limits. It’s easy to glob onto the second person you meet because the conversation is easy and, well, you have to sit with someone during lunch, right? The problem is you have finite time. If you have any hope of hitting your first goal, you have to leave yourself open to receiving new connections. Keep conversations to a 10-minute max – five minutes if you’re chatting with someone you already know.
This means you need to be ready with business cards, your calendar, and a polite but professional way to end the conversation without ending the new connection. This is where follow-up emails come in handy. They’ll help you re-establish the bonds you’re building, while freeing up precious event time for more connections.
Want more time to foster connections? Create it! Getting to an event early not only leaves you with more time, but provides ample networking opportunities with other early arrivals. This is invaluable, as you two will be more able to focus on each other without hordes of people, functions or chaos revolving around you.
Even the biggest social butterflies can find networking events exhausting. Schedule a little “you time” where you’re able to step away. Take a breath, get some water, check your phone, sit in the quiet for a moment. Then head back in. A refresher can do wonders for your psyche – and your energy level.
Imbibe with caution.
Cocktail hour. It’s a loaded phrase, isn’t it? Most networkers imagine you’ll have a drink in your hand…they just don’t anticipate that it’ll be Drink No. 4. Rely on your number skills yet again, and set a limit on alcohol. You know you best, but perhaps one drink if the event doesn’t have food and two if it does.
Oh, and when it comes to food, try to choose options that don’t involve two hands, a bib and your full mouth. Something you can easily nibble with one hand is most convenient when you’re working the floor. Watch out for herbs and seeds as well. When in doubt, take a timeout for a quick mirror check. Think of it as one of your “breaks.”
Everyone’s response to the pandemic was different. Some are still wearing masks, others act as if nothing ever happened. Wherever you fall, be sure you’re entering an event feeling comfortable about your health and wellness. Bow out if you’re under the weather, and come prepared with hand sanitizer if you’re iffy on high-touch items or handshakes. Better yet, determine if you even want to give handshakes so you’re not caught off guard by the first person you meet. In today’s day and age, head nods, fist bumps and even elbow taps are all socially acceptable.
It’s up to you to determine what a successful event looks like, but you can lock in the networking aspect of your goal by coming prepared to meet new people and absorb new experiences.
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