The title should actually be “10 Things to Do Before, At, and After a Networking Event” but that’s way too many prepositions for today.
Last week I attended International Business Club’s World Cities Night (WCN) event. It’s essentially a networking dinner with a focus on business professionals who have had experience working abroad. The dinner ran from 6 – 9 PM but due to my somewhat insane schedule, I showed up at 7:30, regrettably missing the three keynote speakers and much of dinner.
BEFORE THE EVENT
1. Find out the dress code. Confirm the dress code. Link Google pictures in regards to the dress code to make up for the low channel richness in email communication (start counting how many OB terms I throw out there today haha). There’s nothing worse than showing up in jeans and a tee-shirt when everyone else is in evening gowns (not the case at WCN but you get my point). Of course, you’ll always have a handful of people in suits when the dress code clearly calls for “business casual” *cough JohnnyandJason *cough*, though overdressing is better than the alternative I suppose. I wore a short-sleeve black striped blazer over a cami, black suit skirt w/ subtle florals, and black pumps.
2. Print those business cards! When a few second and third year Sauder students asked me whether I wanted to order business cards, I responded “Why?!” in bewilderment. I had no one to give them to. And frankly as much as my parents love me, they’re more appreciative of the colour of autumn leaves than the fact that I’m a marketing coordinator or a first year rep. However, when a lawyer with whom I struck up a lovely conversation gave me his business card, I REALLY wished there was a better way of validating myself than saying “I’m Phoebe, first year commerce student” repeatedly.
3. Make sure your blazer/top/pants/skirt has a pocket for business cards. So after getting the card, I realized I had no where to put it at the dinner table! Leaving it by my plate would be rather disrespectful, and holding it in my hand would prevent me from using hand gestures! Ah woe is me. Lesson learned.
DURING THE EVENT
4. Pay attention to the keynote speakers (duh?). There’s a reason they’re invited. Hold on to their words. Formulate questions. Note down interesting points to bring up later at dinner. Not only will you avoid the awkward silence when seated to someone who has obvious superior intellect and greater range of life experiences, it will also make you seem more knowledgeable and passionate about the field.
5. If you see a business professional standing by him/herself, seize the opportunity to go over and introduce yourself! Yes, this is terrifying and intimidating, but seriously, what’s the worst that can happen? They come to events like WCN because they care about students and want to share some life experiences. Give them the chance to do that. There’s a bit of a thrill in getting to know new people =D
6. Strategize, strategize, strategize. WCN was set up so that there was one or two business person and 5 – 10 students at each table. Having been severely disadvantaged by missing the keynote presentations, I decided that I would seem like a clueless kid (and I was) if I sat down at any table with speakers.In the end I sat down at a table of five, opposite of the business professional who was having an one-on-on conversation with the girl next to him. However, his career choice and experiences really perked my interest and I had a whole bunch of questions for him. So as people left the table, I just kept moving one seat over until I got the chance to ask my questions. Time flew by really fast and by the time we finished our dinner, we were the only two people at the table! Since this was my first networking event, I was amazed by how easily conversation flowed and how helpful the professionals were.
7. Show interest by talking about yourself, but LISTEN for at least 60% of the time. Dinner time conversation is neither like listening to a professor’s lecture nor presenting yourself as if you’re being interviewed. It’s an interactive process!
8. Avoid certain topics. Old rules that governed women’s dinner conversation state that one should never talk about four things: money, sex, religion, and politics. Of course, now time has changed. Based on personal preference, I don’t like talking to people I just met about the above four things. I mean, if you’re at a politics convention, then by all means rave about Obama or rant against Prop 8! Another way to approach the topic at WCN would have been, “Do regional politics and different cultural values influence how you approach your career in other parts of the world?” Thoughts regarding this point are much appreciated =D
9. Skip the messy desert!!! Because dripping ice cream on yourself or sending pieces of a tart fly in all directions is oh-so-embarrassing (this hasn’t happened to me… yet).
AFTER THE EVENT
10. Send an acknowledgment note/email. Now most websites on networking tell you to do this. I still have my hesitations. I procrastinated on composing the email to the people who gave me business cards and now I’m past the week-long time frame. Maybe next time then =|
Any more tips? Post below! Feedback appreciated =D