When you are considering attending a networking event, especially if the community is new to you, there are certain things you might want to consider to better prepare yourself and get the most out of the event.
Is It A Professional Networking- Or Social Networking-Event?
When looking into what kind of event you are considering the question of whether it is a professional or a social one will be important. Many events might look like professional events but in reality there are professionals who are socializing with each other rather than people networking for professional reasons and your expectations should be set accordingly. It is usually much easier to get to the point regarding a professionally related topic at a clearly stated professionally event but on the other hand you are usually able to build a much stronger relationship with professionals when you meet them socially.
Here some brutal honesty is in place. Do you plan to network because you need it for your business or career, or is it your boss who has told you to go and that’s it? Maybe you attend networking events under a disguise of professionalism while in reality your core reasons are entirely social – you want to make and meet friends, have a good time in general and have no problem staying on for that extra hour or even continue the night down town?
The honest answers to these questions should be factored in when you decide which events to attend and also how you act at these events. Otherwise you might miss your target altogether and doing so under a cloud of general boredom.
If you cannot find the appropriate event information online you can of course place an email or a call to the organizers even though they most likely will pimp-up the seniority of the expected guests somewhat.
If you know some of the expected guests it might of course be a good idea to meet up prior to the event and have a little pre chat where you also have the opportunity to meet some other newcomers in a relaxed setting.
Where Does The Event Take Place?
The venue matters in many ways for networking. It is not just about finding the way there; it is also about what is around. Are there other venues in the area that can be used for pre-drinks, dinner, relaxed after-talks, do you know somebody working at the venue? Have you been there before, where can you park your car, can you eat there, are there several rooms, loud music, an opportunity to stay on after the event is over?
The community culture can be a challenge for newcomers. Sometimes events are attended by a tight-nit community where everybody at least appears to know each other inside out and then it might feel like an obstacle to break into conversations and finding ones way at the event. Sometimes the appearance of a tight-nit community is only a fiction as people act like they known each other since childhood but in reality they have just seen each other before a few times. This is very hard for you to know in advance though.
The same challenge is presented by the professional cultures at various events. Industry oriented events might feel very introvert and the guests are happy using their most extreme jargon to further emphasize how important and special they are. If you realise the event is such an event and you are not a party to the industry in question you might just call it a day and leave instead of bouncing your head against the wall while looking like a fool.
Other cultural factors are age, strictness, mono- or multi-culture and gender division. Sometimes you will unfortunately find that some events are near fake as they might market themselves as for “senior management” while in reality all those seniors have sent their assistants in their place and whoever you speak with will have almost no decision making power at their company.
Special consideration should be given to the event host. Try to find out who is the host of the event and connect with him or her prior to the event. The host is most likely the most networked person at the event and therefore a key person to reach out to and say a few words to so he or she remember you. Also, and few people do this so you will stick out, approach the host before leaving and say a few words of thank you. Then you will surely be remembered.
Is There A Dress Code?
Appearance matters so make sure you look good and is well groomed but do have a look at photos from previous events and factor in the style of the audience; you want to stick out in a good way but not appear like you are from galaxy far, far away.
Does The Event Have A Program
Is there a program for the event and certain activities that will take place? The event schedule can have an impact on when you should arrive. What if you are there to meet people but arrive at a time when casual conversations are obstructed by a program? Try to find out as much as possible before the event and ask the organisers – they surely know the flow of the event regardless whether it has an official program or not.
What Are The Languages Spoken At The Event?
It is naturally not very easy to attend an event where you don’t master the language spoken. If you need – bring a friend or a colleague that manages the event language. Surely some people speak some of the more international languages though but who they are and which international language they speak might be harder to find out. One advantage of being the odd alien is that you are likely to attract attention and might even be specially taken care of by other guests or the host. Most event organisers like to boast that their events are international.