Networking Pre-search and Planning
So many events, so little time. I understand exactly how this overload happens. Get a room full of enthusiastic people together around a cause, and the topic eventually trends toward throwing an event. But enthusiasm doesn’t necessarily translate into a good event worthy of your time and energy.
Good events have the elements of learning, clearly communicated objectives, schedule of events (SOE), logistics, communications and follow-up all sussed out. It’s up to you, as the event-goer, to discern if it’s an event that aligns with your personal and professional networking strategies and goals. This process is called pre-search.
Image: Fanaticon Event Brought Brands Together to Talk Fans
For the purposes of this exploration, I’m focusing on business seminars and events with formats based on learning and networking in a professional environment. I’ve already reviewed networking effectiveness (a checklist of what to look for before rsvp’ing), networking formats and networking timeframes in previous posts. Now I’m getting more in-depth on the pre-search portion.
When doing pre-search on an event, consider the host and partners involved, the event format, attendee make-up and your networking goals.
Are you familiar with the hosting and partner organizations? If not, check them out online. If there are speakers, check them out too. Do you have people in your network that are connected to the host, partners or participants in some way? Ideally, someone you know in your network might recommend the event and give you a little insight on the format and the audience you’ll find there. It’s worth asking if you’re unsure.
What’s the schedule of events? Is there time for intentionally networking before or after a learning program or is it solely to network? Is it an annual or celebratory event, focused on learning or a format tried and true that’s on a more frequent basis, like a monthly event? This will give you cues on what you can expect and plan for during the event.
Who is likely to be there? Are these the type of connections that would be beneficial to you personally or professionally? Do you want to re-establish your existing network or broaden it? Generally speaking, a balance of both is healthy.
What’s your goal in attending the event? Are you there to meet people who can help you find a job or work? Are you there to sell your services at a business to consumer level or business to business level? Or maybe you want to learn from others to educate yourself on a new topic or gain new skill sets?
Image: WLIT Panel Brought Women in Tech Together to Talk Fearlessness
MONTHLY PRE-SEARCH and PLANNING
At a very top-level, you can do this pre-search for events as they arise, but making a more concerted effort to pair your business networking goals, like on a monthly basis, with events tends to make you more intentional and deliberate in your efforts. And remember, you also need to build in time for follow-up!
Understanding the how and why of building your network will help you select the events most worth your time. It will also help you go into events with realistic expectations, read the tone of the room and determine how you go about networking and follow-up. Long term, it will ensure you’re balancing building on existing connections with time and resources to branch out to new connections.