As an avid attendee of in-person professional events, I’ve noticed an increased focus on dedicated pre- and post-event networking opportunities. Interestingly, these valuable segments appear consistently underutilized. Or, as I often hear from friends and colleagues, attendees leave feeling like they missed out on worthwhile connection opportunities. While the idea of networking may conjure thoughts of fruitless small talk, creating meaningful connections can happen more often than not when you’re armed with the right mindset and preparation.
Early on in my career, reluctance caused me to miss out on opportunities to build my network at these types of professional events. However, once I started working with a career coach, I quickly learned the value of a strong personal network and have found my career much more rewarding as a result.
My grandmother was a stickler for social etiquette. I’ll always remember the wisdom she shared when I entered high school: “Before attending any event, social or otherwise, be prepared with 5 topics of conversation that cannot include the weather or religion.” (I’ve also added politics to the taboo list). My grandmother would be proud to know that this advice has become a guiding light throughout my adult life. I find that when entering networking opportunities armed with topics or points of interest, I can comfortably ease my way into more natural conversations. This allows my attention to be focused on identifying common areas of interest and forming genuine, memorable connections with new acquaintances (rather than stressing over how to continue an awkward, forced conversation).
Being prepared helps me feel confident and comfortable. Before attending networking events, I complete the following pre-work to ensure I’m making the most of the opportunity:
Review the objective of the event, agenda and the brief bios of keynote speakers
Peruse last year’s attendee list and identify any companies with whom I’m already connected or want to connect
Establish personal goals for what connections I’d like to make
Create a cheat sheet of this list to keep on my phone as a quick reference for what I want to accomplish with each connection
TIP: be creative with your personal connection goals and think about interesting ways you can add value to your company, your clients, your employees, or even your friends. For example, several of the connections I’ve made have resulted in new business partnerships for my company, expanded strategic offerings for our clients and new job connections for several contacts!
One of the most important aspects of networking is the follow up. Following any event, I immediately connect with my new contacts on LinkedIn and include a reminder of where we met and/or why it’s relevant to connect.
Over the years, my continuous commitment to seeking opportunities to grow my personal network has resulted in job opportunities, introductions to prospective new clients and business partners, and ever-increasing value both as an employee and to my clients. But even more so, I find it’s particularly rewarding when I can help friends and colleagues advance their careers by making introductions and facilitating connections between individuals within my own diverse network.
Now that you’re armed with these tips, act on them! Start by creating a library of 5-10 topics of conversation from which you can pull as you prepare for your next networking opportunity. With the right mindset and preparation, you’ll find it much easier to create meaningful connections and grow a strong and valuable network. Good luck!
Meet Molly Lane
As the VP, Director of Client Services at Core-Rx Communications, I have over 15 years of experience leading talented healthcare communications teams to grow client brands and agency revenues.
The mission of WeInspireWe is to support and empower female leaders and this is consistent with what I’ve always tried to do with myself and my teammates.
In various management roles throughout my career, I’ve cherished:
Building teams that work against one unified goal
Experiencing the sheer joy and pride that occurs when seeing my teammates realize their full potential
Helping my teammates navigate life changes with confidence and create harmony with work
What I find most gratifying is that people who I managed many years ago continue to use me as a sounding board and feel comfortable enough to reach out to me for both personal and professional advice.
Please connect with me! Don’t forget to include a note letting me know how you found me and why you’d like to connect.