“It’s always good to approach networking from a strategic mind-set,” says Alaina G. Levine, president of Quantum Success Solutions, a career consulting organization and author of Networking for Nerds.
Here’s how to turn a networking event into win-win partnerships that last.
3 weeks out
Do your homework. If the conference publishes a guest list, check it for the attendees you want to meet. Google potential contacts and peek at their social media accounts to come up with conversation starters, says Laura Gassner Otting, author of Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life.
2 weeks out
Gather your props. Think about what you want from potential relationships so you know what to bring to make the right impression. For example, business cards may be sufficient if you’re looking for a mentor, while a portfolio or video reel might be better suited if you’re trying to land a job. Also, research the dress code so you’ll be sure to fit in.
1 week out
Ask for introductions. Reach out to people in advance and ask for 15 minutes of their time, Levine suggests. If you share a connection with someone you want to meet, ask for an introduction.
1 hour before
Remind yourself of your short-term goal. “All you want from the networking interaction is an agreement to have a further conversation later,” says Gassner Otting.
During the event
Find opportunities to give. Look for ways you can be of service to the contacts you meet and offer your help, Gassner Otting says.
Midway through the event
Check the time to make sure you’re on track to make all of your connections. To bow out of a conversation gracefully, say, “It was a pleasure speaking with you. I’d love to continue this conversation later over coffee,” Levine suggests.
1 week after
Connect with new contacts on LinkedIn, follow them on their other social media platforms, and send a brief email showing appreciation for their time.
Weeks and months after
Use holiday cards, social media, and handwritten notes (yes, we do mean handwritten!) to stay connected, Gassner Otting adds.
—Tamara E. Holmes