“All the world’s a stage,” said Jaques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. These days, the world of work seems more like a movie. Successful networking, like a boffo box office hit, requires lengthy pre-production preparation, impeccable execution, and a thorough post-production process. If you’re in it for the long run, a post mortem adds immeasurable value.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts
On Monday, I wrote about the importance of clearly identifying your objectives before wasting any more time or money on network. Once you’ve sorted out your reasons for attending a networking event, however, there’s still work to do.
Once you’ve chosen the event you plan to attend, look closely at the content offered. If you plan to attend a lecture or workshop, investigate the guest speaker’s credentials by visiting his or her website and examining his or her social media footprint. There’s nothing worse than finding out too late that the keynote is a self-proclaimed guru with no experience to back it up.
In the case of an event where you hope to meet potential clients—a professional happy hour, for example—try to find out ahead of time who will be attending the event. If the event has a Facebook page, look at the list of people who have “joined” the event. Depending how organizers configure the settings, Eventbrite events might provide hyperlinked participant lists. If you spot some potential prospects in the list of attendees, pop over to LinkedIn to read their profiles, visit their Google+ business page, take a look at their Twitter feed and visit their website or blog. You’ll arrive at the event feeling as though you know all these strangers quite well already and banish at least some of the nervousness you feel walking into an event
A lot of networking events take place in the wee hours before the work day begins or at the tail end of a long day. Rushing in late to an event, not yet quite awake or your nerves frayed by the work day’s challenges can jeopardize your objectives.
The solution: when blocking time for the event, add 30 minutes before the event starts and use it to get your head in the game. Review your objectives and your notes, take a walk, breathe. You’ll arrive alert but calm to take full advantage of the experience.
Been there, done that, snagged some swag and whack of business cards. Now what?
Before you get too distracted, revise your pre-event notes with the intelligence you gathered at the event. Follow-up with prospects within 24 to 48 hours. If you wait until you have some free time, you may have forgotten many key details or your prospects may have forgotten you. Worse yet, a competitor may have already gotten his or her foot in the door.
Sort your business cards, add contact info and notes to your address book and marketing database. You don’t have a marketing hit list? Start one. Return to your favourite social media platforms and connect with your prospects. Don’t leap in with the hard sell. Just touch base, nurture the relationship . When you are ready to take it to the next level, this foundation will serve you well.
The event didn’t meet your expectations or advance your objective? Don’t beat yourself up. Do take some time to figure out why. Fine-tuning your networking skills will make the next event that much better.
Networking is an investment. It’s als0 a process that requires preparation, focus and follow-through. Yes, it takes time but, once you tackle the learning curve and perfect your skills, it’s time well spent.
Photo: Buster Keaton