Since COVID-19 hit back in March 2020, restrictions were put in place for in-person gatherings. Events and conferences—which are excellent opportunities to grow your professional network and meet new people— migrated to online platforms like Zoom and Google Meets. But almost 2.5 years later, everything is gradually returning to normal, and with it, in-person events are making a comeback. The thought of networking at an event may be intimating or nerve-wracking as most of us are out of practice. In this article, I share some tips for how to get the most out of in-person events so you can grow your professional network.
Networking at an event is all about making an impression. People will determine whether they want to talk to you based on the impression you make on them. Typically, first impressions are made based on your appearance. People are more likely to connect with you if you appear well-groomed and professionally dressed rather than if you arrive in incorrect attire. Poor dress can convey that you are ill-prepared and makes a person appear unprofessional. Consider checking if there is a suggested dress code for the event ahead of time. If there is, make sure that what you wear to the event adheres to it. If an event does not specify a specific dress code, business casual attire is advised and a safe bet. Keep in mind that it is better to overdress than underdress! While it is important to stay professional, don’t be afraid to be creative with your outfit to show your personality.
Research Ahead of Time
It’s usually a good idea to do some research before the event. Research allows you to plan and prepare for how you want to approach the night. By learning more about an event, you can better anticipate who you may come in contact with and thus plan accordingly. You may consider looking into:
- The organization or people hosting the event: It can be helpful to identify who is hosting an event. Doing so allows you to understand their products and the industry they operate in. In addition, there is a good chance that employees of the hosting organization will be in attendance. You may want to look into recent news, development, and problems occurring in the industry of the hosting organization. This gives you lots of talking points for various conversations you may have throughout the night.
- The attendees: Platforms such as Hopin allow you to connect with guest attendees before and after an event. Attendees can create profiles telling other guests about themselves. Consider browsing the list of attendees to see if anyone catches your attention and is someone you want to connect with at the event. You can learn a bit about them by reading their bio and using what you learned to engage in a conversation when networking at the event.
- Guest speakers, special guests, panelists: Identifying who will be speaking at an event can help you formulate insightful questions ahead of time. These questions may be for the speakers themselves or to get another attendee’s perspective about your question. Researching ahead of time allows you to find mutual ground that you use to connect with them. For instance, if one of the guest speakers is an author who has published a book, you may browse online forums to read summaries of the book’s content and discussions with other people about the book. You can use the information you gained to engage in meaningful discussions with the author at the event or at least show them that you are interested in their work. Finding common ground and expressing interest can help you stand out from other attendees.
Networking events can be fast-paced and overwhelming. With so so much going on, it can be challenging to remember everything that happened and everyone you met. Taking notes gives you something to refer back to later. Information you may want to write down includes:
- Conversational themes that piqued your interest and made you want to learn more
- Books or articles that someone suggested you read
- Names, titles, organizations, and contact information of the people you chatted with
Although networking at an event is useful, what really matters is the lasting connections you obtain from the event. Be sure to follow up with the people you meet soon after the event. Reaching out to them on LinkedIn is a good way to do this, but you can also email them or use another method if it seems appropriate. When reaching out to people, make sure to personalize the message. For example, you can mention something that you talked about at the event such as, “I appreciated the talk we had regarding ….”. Reaching out demonstrates that you are genuinely interested in connecting with a person and valued the interaction you already had. Networking and creating genuine connections can be useful for landing jobs or being offered interview opportunities in the future.
In-person events are here to stay. These tips can help you feel more confident and prepared for networking at an event. I hope you find them useful!
Suleman Mian is a second-year Wilfrid Laurier University student currently studying Economics at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics. This was a blog he wrote during his time at Jarvis Consulting Group where his position was a Marketing Intern.
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Jarvis is a leading IT consulting firm headquartered in Canada that provides total talent solutions with ongoing partnerships across North America’s top financial institutions, cutting-edge startups, and major technology companies.
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