Runners have a plan before, during, and after an event. Before an event, I check the weather, select a running outfit, prepare a drop bag, re-evaluate the course and schedules. During the event, having a schedule for when to refuel, adding a kick, and when to visit an aid station can help you maintain focus. After the event, it is so much fun to mingle with the runners from the race, eat some food, enjoy the surroundings and the feeling of success. At a running event, I usually make two future contacts through networking practices I have gained in my professional career.
We have evaluated great ways for engineers to start their networking abilities. Now that you are ready to meet professionals in your field you will want to be prepared to do this correctly when attending conferences/Trade Shows. To make the most of these events you will need a little preparation and practice.
Before the Event:
Have an objective for attending the event. This can be something as simple as learn a certain topic to be presented, reconnecting with contacts or meeting new people. My goal at each event is to gain knowledge on certain topics and collect three business cards from valuable contacts.
Make sure you dress professional even if the event states business casual. You do not want your first impression to be a negative one. I usually layout my networking outfits to determine if they are appropriate for the event. Since I attend metallurgical conferences, I tend to stay away from skirts or dresses, because sometimes you tour facilities that require PPE. To keep my personal style, I usually wear a vibrantly colored shirt with chunky heels, allowing me to exude confidence.
Make sure you bring enough business cards to go around. It is embarrassing to not have a business card when someone request your information. Also, make sure to have a professional way of carrying those cards.
At the Event:
When you meet someone new, make a good introduction by maintaining eye contact, smiling, and saying your complete name. Give a firm brief handshake, from experience, receiving a limp handshake is abnormal. Next, listen to the other person’s name, then use it while you converse.
When engaging in conversation listen to the other person first. This is a method of being completely listened to. Usually the first person talking is not being completely listened to because the other person is occupied with what they are going to say when it is their turn to speak. Ask questions about the other person’s background and work. This shows the person you are conversing with that you are interested in what they are saying. When it is your turn to speak, keep your conversation partner engaged by getting to the point in a few sentences. If people want greater detail you can share this later.
Make sure you take notes on the crucial details of the conversation because you will not remember everything. I usually have several conversations during breakouts, so before I start a new conversation, I find a corner and write basic notes on the business cards I have obtained. This makes it easier when I follow up with the contacts I have met.
After the Event:
When you return from the event try to follow up within a few days. Send emails to anyone you have met that you want to continue networking with. Make sure you add personalization to the email by using the notes you took and let each person know you enjoyed meeting them.
What suggestion do you have from networking at events? Please share.