In-person events are coming back. That means the opportunity to network with people IRL! Whether that excites you or scares you (or maybe somewhere in between), we’ve got steps you can take that will help you be successful at in-person networking so it’s beneficial for everyone.
Also, as of the original publication of this article, we’re still in a pandemic. It’s up to each person to assess what events, if any, they feel comfortable in attending. These tips are evergreen. If you don’t head to another event for a year, everything here will still be relevant.
Maybe you tuned in during the livestream in the BlogPaws Community Facebook Group on this topic. That livestream aired July 28, and this post covers what Chloe went over. If you are a member of the Group, head on over and watch the replay. BlogPaws Community Facebook Group welcomes pet professionals interested in learning and networking about their businesses. This includes pet bloggers and influencers, pet small businesses, veterinarians, and pet focused nonprofits. Is that you? Come join us!
How to successfully network at an in-person event
Feeling rusty with your networking skills? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! In-person networking starts before you get there. You need to be sure you prepare for any networking event beforehand. This will help you have confidence for the actual event and ensure you leave the event feeling like you accomplished your goal.
And don’t forget the follow-up. Networking doesn’t end when the event ends. Networking is the beginning of a relationship.
How to prepare for a networking event
- Set a goal for yourself. What is your purpose in attending? What do you hope to accomplish? Knowing this will help guide your conversations.
- Be sure you have current business cards. It may feel old school, but exchanging business cards is still a must during in-person networking events.
- Create lists of the people you want to connect with during the event. Or maybe you want to meet with certain brands, like at pet industry events Global Pet Expo or SuperZoo. Depending on the event, you may even have a list of products you want to seek out. Just be sure to have lists so you can make quick decisions about where to go and what to do.
- Be prepared with your note taking plan. Some people like a notebook. Others prefer to use a device. There is no wrong way, but you should know exactly how you are going to keep track of everyone (and everything) you see before you go to the event.
- Pro Tips:
- If you are part of a team, a shared Google Sheet can help organize you ahead of time and keep everyone on the same page.
- Be sure to have a place to store business cards you receive. Neck wallets are great options, but as long as you know where they are going after you get them, you can prevent having them EVERYWHERE.
- Check out this round-up post of networking tips.
How to engage at an in-person networking event
- Know how to introduce yourself to the people you are networking with. Practice what you’ll say ahead of time. You want it to be short and clear. Tell people enough that they understand who you are and why you are there, but not so much that they feel like you are talking for minutes on end.
- Think of questions to ask ahead of time. Be ready to keep the conversation going. Don’t make anyone else feel like it’s their job, but also be ready to let the conversation flow naturally. It’s a balance between being ready to ask questions, and being ready to answer questions.
It’s also a good idea to think about what questions people might ask you. Practice some answers.
- Listen. This goes back to tip #2, but it is worth being very clear about. Listening is a skill. Be sure you are truly listening to what you are being told and not half listening while you think about what you will say next.
- Decide how you want to end the conversation. We’ve all been there, in that awkward place where no one is saying anything but at the same time no one is sure what to say to end the conversation. To avoid that, be ready to end it with either sharing how you will follow-up or thank them for their time and wish them well. You don’t have to use those words, but picking one of those sentiments will help you move on to another conversation.
- And, if you are following up, be sure to give a specific action that you will take. For example, “Great to meet you. I will follow up via email next week.” And then be sure you do!
- Make notes on the business cards you receive to help jog your memory of the conversation you had. You can have notes and cards, but if you don’t make sure they tie together nicely, you might get people mixed up. I’ve had that happen before!
How to follow-up after an in-person networking event
- Set a time in your calendar for follow-ups. We all tend to do better when we have tasks scheduled at specific times.
- Go back through your notes and group similar follow-ups together. This way you can prioritize your reach outs.
- Remember to take into account that people get event “hangovers.” They can be draining and many people need a day or two to recover. So, follow-up timely, but don’t expect immediate replies.
- Create an email template for your follow-ups, but make sure to personalize it based on:
Why you’re reaching out
- Pro Tip: DO NOT just add people to a newsletter or email list. ASK! It happens at every event, but it’s not good business practice. If you want to add someone’s email address to an email list, ask them. Don’t just assume that because you connected you can add them.
If you want to be on our professionals email list, you can subscribe here. And if you don’t, that’s okay. You know where to find us for more pet professional content to help you learn the ins and outs of running a small business in the pet industry.
What about you? What tips do you have for in-person networking?
Chloe DiVita is an original BlogPaws Executive Team member and is Co-founder of All Pet Voices, BlogPaws’ sister company. She’s been in the pet industry since 2009 and loves leading the All Pet Collaborative, a membership group for small pet businesses, with All Pet Voices Co-founder Jessica Shipman. She also LOVES speaking and if you put her in front of a camera she’ll talk until you tell her to stop. It comes in handy as Executive Producer for TEDxCambridge where she leading the speaker coaching team and is constantly in awe of the ideas being brought to the stage.