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101585244_SWhile networking events may seem intimidating at first, they are a great way to connect with professionals in your field, especially if you are looking for new employment. These events are crucial to stay active in your industry and hear from experienced speakers in your field talk about new product innovations.

If you are wanting to start your own business or create a more flexible work environment due to personal reasons, attending networking conferences is the perfect way to connect with those in similar situations. Not every worker fits the same mold of working a traditional 40 hour work week and it’s important to learn new ways to manage your time and create a work environment that strikes a balance with your personal life. If you are planning to attend a networking event in the near future, these tips will help you make the most of the opportunity:

Conduct meaningful research

Instead of conducting general research in your field, get specific with what you want to know. Is it more information about a certain speaker? Or a specific piece of technology? Get specific about your questions and you will receive more meaningful answers. Keep in mind that the majority of the time the speaking themes will be released prior to the event and you will have time to digest the information and think of a few relevant questions. If there is something you want to know about the panelist, don’t hesitate to ask. When you stand up to ask your question, be sure to stand tall and make eye contact instead of nervously staring at the ground.

Be genuine

The first rule to making a networking event successful is to show up with genuine intentions and a positive attitude. While you are building relationships with others, stay clear of conversations that are directed at yourself and your own business. Be sure to periodically smile and ask people questions that are open and fit the conversation.

Mute your cell phone

While long lectures and boring PowerPoint presentations may make it tempting to spend the majority of the time on your mobile device, try your best to resist this temptation. Instead of texting your friends or catching up on Instagram, redirect your energy toward connecting with the people sitting near you. The best way to look approachable is to smile and make eye contact with others instead of hunching over a screen in the back of the room.

Make a good first impression

Before you attend a networking event, be sure to have a 20- to 30- second introduction prepared about yourself. In the business world, this is known as an “elevator pitch.” You want to be able to introduce yourself to several people in a short amount of time, so be sure your introduction is clear, concise, and relevant. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to give this speech in well under a minute. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact and give a firm handshake after introducing yourself.

Assume the best

The best thing you can do at a networking event is to show up with a positive and enthusiastic attitude. Instead of being insecure and shy, focus on what you can offer to the new friends you are about to meet. Change your mindset from “they will never like me” to “I’m likable.” If you keep feeding yourself positive thoughts, that energy will manifest itself into beneficial opportunities.

Reach out on LinkedIn

Once the event is over, it’s important to follow-up virtually on networks like LinkedIn. Once you have created a standing relationship through both in-person and virtual connection, continue to foster that relationship by offering to meet up for lunch or coffee. Remember to thank whoever you are connecting with for their time and expertise and continue to reach out to them about the latest industry events or business news. You never know what opportunity could arise!

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