Thursday, May 10, 2012

7 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Next Business Networking Event

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Many job seekers will see plenty of invitations to business conferences and professional networking events. A live event can be invaluable, providing opportunities to learn new skills and develop new contacts who can advance your career or job search. And if you're thinking about changing your corporate hat for an entrepreneurial one, an event can offer inspiration for a new business idea and connect you with the right people to start your journey.

Whether out-of-town or local, events are an investment in yourself and your career -- one that you can easily offset with new contacts and skills to land that job interview. To get the most from your next live event, consider these tips:

1. Start with the end in mind. If you're attending these events for the connections, make a note of the type of people you want to meet. For most job seekers, you're ideally looking to meet high-level executives in companies within your specific industry -- especially those who may be hiring. If you're attending a seminar to gain skills and inspiration, make a note of what your personal objectives are for the event. If you're thinking of launching your own business, you could be seeking to discover possible clients, referral resources or vendors.
2. Research topics, speakers and panelists. Check the website's agenda for the event, and know who will be speaking and what the topics are. If there are breakout sessions, tentatively decide which ones address your needs the most. By doing your homework, you'll be better informed and be able to understand the training at a deeper level.
3. Know your strengths and gaps. Let's say that you know you excel at your area of expertise and are a top-notch project manager. You also want to be aware of the areas where you need improvement -- for example, your technical skills and sales skills. Just writing these thoughts down before the event will help you stay aware of opportunities presented at the event -- such as unexpected conversations.
4. Know some of your key contributions. In the event you meet a hiring manager or a high-level executive, you may want to have a few relevant examples of how you've contributed to your past positions. Keep a cheat sheet handy with your sales numbers, internal improvements you've initiated, the number of team members you oversee or money saved by your cost-cutting suggestions. (Get tips on creating a personal-branding tagling and a winning "elevator speech," in "Build Your Brand.")
5. Connect with attendees. Seek out Facebook event pages or forums that have been created for your event. It's a great way to virtually meet conference attendees before the event, so when you do meet in person, you'll be fast friends. Keep an eye out for Tweetups -- impromptu gatherings of Twitter users -- or, better yet, organize one yourself.
6. Plan your travel well. If possible, arrive at your event destination a day or two early to relax, get acclimated, get on the same time zone, and get accustomed to your surroundings. Stay at the hotel where the conference is held to save time going from your room to the event, save money on car rental or cab fare and increase your potential for connecting with other event attendees. (Your room is also a great place to get a little privacy and get a breather, so it's nice to have close by).
7. Come prepared. Of course you'll want to bring a stack of business cards, but also consider a thoughtful take-away item that sets you apart, such as a pocket-sized calendar with your professional contact information. Be clever and memorable.

You're just about ready, but here are a few more must-haves: an empty water bottle for being green while you travel, a few of your favorite power bars or snacks and a method for jotting down lots of notes and your all-important follow-up list of action items when you get back home.

Now get out there, and get to work!

Entrepreneur mentor and success coach Ali Brown teaches women how to start and grow profitable businesses and create careers that make a positive impact. Learn more at

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