Are you in a position or profession that requires you to attend networking events? Some of us look at these events as an opportunity, while many of us see it as a “necessary evil” to accomplish a goal. In either case, here are some ideas about how to make the most of a networking opportunity, while simultaneously increasing your comfort level and effectiveness.

First, when possible, prepare a “plan of attack” before you arrive. Find out who will be attending and target your best prospects. Find out a bit about the individual or their company to show your interest in developing a relationship with them and or suggesting how you may be a good fit for each other. (If you don’t have access to that information, just start with the steps below.)

Divide your list of contacts into levels, A, B and C and then work the room accordingly.

A Contacts
Those individuals that you most want to meet and establish a relationship with. Make it a goal to meet all of these before the event ends. Always exchange contact information to follow-up with them personally or place them into an automated sales and marketing funnel.

B Contacts
Level B contacts are important, but not as important as Level A. Meet as many of them as time permits with the same goal of following up.

C Contacts
Seek these contacts out only after you’ve exhausted your efforts with the first 2 groups.

When you engage a new contact simply start the conversation with these 4 Questions:

  1. What company are you with?
  2. What do you do there?
  3. How long have you been in that position?
  4. What do you like best about what you do?
  5. How would I know if someone I’m talking to would be a good referral for you (or your company)?
    * This question can be substituted with “I’d be happy to send people your way that are looking for your service/product.”

By asking these questions you’ll be the most interesting person they speak to at the event! This is because you showed an interest in them first, instead of leading with who you are and what you want to promote. After answering your questions, they’ll almost always ask about you and your business (out of courtesy or interest) and then you can share your information with them.

Other real-life situations you’ll likely encounter at an event will include encountering friends, business associates, and current clients/customers. In any of these cases, be friendly and professional but severely limit the time you spend with them. Remember, your goal is to establish new contacts, not to stay in your comfort zone!