"How can I make the most of a business networking event?"

For many, a dentist appointment is more appealing than a networking event.

For many, a dentist appointment is more appealing than a networking event. Admittedly, networking can feel unnatural at times, but it is an undeniably powerful business tool (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 %t of all jobs are found through networking) and applying a few smart tactics can transform a once-dreaded task into a useful, and even enjoyable experience.  

  • Most importantly, have a plan. Set an achievable and meaningful goal based on your current business needs, (e.g. talk to and exchange cards with three people at the event and find out if any of them have recommendations for Applicant Tracking System software).
  • Take the pressure off. You don't need to be a master at chatting with strangers to make a connection. Try using a simple introduction with your name and company and comment on something about the event to establish common ground then let the conversation follow naturally.
  • Have something to offer. Consider areas that you have expertise in and become a resource. This is how you'll build relationships with longevity. While you may not be “getting” anything out of it upfront, the connection will likely be useful to you in the future.
  • Follow up online. In addition to exchanging cards, use LinkedIn to connect to your new contacts and take notes on what you discussed.
  • Nurture the relationship. Schedule time to follow-up every few months with important contacts and make efforts to share information and ideas of interest.  Thoughtful follow-up will allow you to build trust and strengthen the relationship.
  • Use it or lose it! Once you've established these connections, use them! Being resourceful and reaching out to contacts when you need advice, an introduction to someone they know, or just a sounding board is the point of networking.

Laura Smith is managing director of U.S. Human Resources for Edelman.

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