Making the Most of Networking Events

I took my first vacation of 2014 and went to Vancouver for a conference at the end of March. Every ounce of non-conference time was packed with visits from family and friends. Returning on a Saturday was a good choice. Sunday was dedicated to ALL OF THE SLEEP before a big week in the office.

On top of glorious weather, the Emerging Environmental Leaders Forum (EELF) and GLOBE 2014 were both absolutely amazing experiences. I’m still working on my take-away posts. In the meantime, I want to share what I learned about preparing for networking events as a recent graduate and young professional. The more prepared you are, the more value you will get out of attending these events.

1. DO YOUR RESEARCH

If you’re painfully shy like me, the most challenging aspect of these events is approaching people. Start your research by obtaining the speaker lineup and (if applicable) trade show exhibitors. Identify individuals and organizations in your field of interest and prepare talking points you can use to approach them. Research them in detail and relevant industry trends. Prepare any questions you may have about them or their career ie. job prospects, key skills & experience highly sought after, a typical day in the field, etc.

Haven’t settled on your dream career? Look into several possible avenues – from my experience most people are happy to share how they got to a certain point in their career and their stories are guaranteed to be interesting – you never know, you might end up with quite a lot in common and make a valuable connection!

2. HAVE AN ELEVATOR PITCH

You don’t need to have a business to have an elevator pitch on hand. Having a strong personal brand has a lasting impression on people. Make yourself memorable. Ask yourself: Why are you here? What do you hope to gain from it? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Is there an issue you have a bone to pick with and what are you going to do about it? Where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you see yourself in ten years?

3. BRING BUSINESS CARDS

– with your name, contact information and a link to your website and/or LinkedIn profile. Have them handy when people ask or the right opportunity arises (like if you see the conversation going somewhere). Personally I like to be more selective vs. hand them out to every person I encounter, but everyone has their preference.

4. BE APPROACHABLE AND APPROACH OTHERS

Relax, keep a smile on your face, and don’t be afraid to walk up to a complete stranger. That’s what these events are for, right?

5. DRESS FOR SUCCESS (AND COMFORT)

Typically, when you are in a closed building with thousands of people, it gets warm. It also seems to drop below freezing mid-session because they crank the A/C. Make sure whatever you’re wearing not only looks good, but can also be adjusted for changing temperatures.

If you’re staying a distance from the conference venue, bring a day bag that can carry all your essentials: laptop, phone, chargers, wallet, business cards, conference program, swag, handouts, water bottle/mug, lipbalm, gum, snacks, etc. I recently got a new one that’s convertible and has tons of pockets for quick access to everything.

 

Also, for the love of god, wear comfortable shoes. I can guarantee you no one cares about whether you’re wearing heels or flats.

6. BRING YOUR CHARGER(S)

Just do it. Every single morning I left without my phone + laptop charger thinking; it’ll last the day until I head back home for a rest/recharge before the evening reception! No. You meet new people and you will all end up going for dinner/drinks before evening events. Going back to your hotel room is not usually an option. So if you’re a serial tweeter like me, BRING YOUR CHARGERS! Or a battery case for your iPhone/Android.

7. WATCH YOUR BEVERAGE/FOOD INTAKE

Limit yourself on the coffee, Bring a pack of gum or mints. Drink water to stay hydrated. Bring snacks like fruit or granola bars in case they don’t actually serve food and/or to balance your energy levels. Also, know your limits when it comes to alcohol at receptions, or don’t drink at all.

 

I hope some of that is useful. I will be posting both event summaries over the weekend. My GLOBE delegate pass was generously sponsored through the GLOBE Student Delegate Grant program, which supports a number of young leaders in the environmental sector. I would not have been able to attend without their support. If you are interested in attending the next GLOBE conference, be sure to apply in early 2016.

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