There are certainly benefits to professional networking. You have the opportunity to meet leaders in the professional community, get introductions to potential referral partners, new business, or much needed resources.  Have you ever walked into a networking event and immediately questioned whether you made the right choice in attending? Perhaps you realize the group is not at all what you expected or the event’s purpose is not in alignment with what you had hoped to achieve by networking. For example, the event might be of a purely social nature, making it difficult to have business conversations.

Time, resources and money are precious commodities. To ensure your investment is successful and generative, here are four simple activities you can do prior to attending any event.

1. Research the structure. It is helpful to understand the structure of the event in advance.  Will it consist of pure and open mingling?  Will you have the opportunity to meet and make introductions on your own or is there a facilitated structure?  Will there be a speaker sharing information on a topic of interest to you?  Will the organizers be offering a sales presentation (perhaps you will be sitting through a presentation of which you have little or no interest).  When researching the event, look to see who the host of the event is and reach out to them to ask any unanswered questions.

2. Know who will be there. Double check to ensure the level of professionalism, businesses and industries are in alignment with your work. If you are nervous about going to a new group, you might want to ask around and reach out to friends or colleagues to see if anyone is attending the same event.  Or maybe someone will be there whom you have always wanted to meet. Attending the same event is a great way to make the introduction. Once you know who will be there, contact anyone you know to let them know you will be there as well and you look forward to meeting them. You might put their mind at ease when they know you are going. Of course it is always helpful to invite along a friend or colleague to join you. They will appreciate the invitation and it could make integrating into the group easier.

3. Know the group’s philosophy and purpose. Do they emphasize relationship building, connections and referrals? Is it an opportunity to connect socially?  Some networking events are set up as a pipeline for the organizer to get more clients, which can be a good thing and timely, particularly if you are seeking their services or products. Ask your friends and colleagues if they have heard about the event, get their feedback and assess whether the event is a good fit for you.

4. Contact the organizers of the event and offer to help. Find out where the event is located and where parking is situated so you can plan to get there early to assist. The person organizing the event will be one of the most connected people in the room. They will appreciate your offer to help and you never know what your kindness will result in. It might be nothing, in which case, you did a good thing by helping or offering to help.

Being prepared for a networking event by understanding what you are walking into, who will be there, and what you can expect throughout the event will give you more confidence from the start and enable you to better leverage your resources.  These are just four ideas and I know there are many more ways to prepare before networking.

With which of the above do you agree or disagree?
What other factors can you suggest to prepare before attending a networking event?
How have you discovered information about networking groups before?
What resources do you use to research a networking group?

© 2013 CERTUS Professional Network / Behind The Moon, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Feel free to share this article in its entirety and include Sabrina Risley’s Bio information below along with live link back to this blog post.  Thank you.

Sabrina Risley

Sabrina Risley is a master connector. She’s been hosting live networking events since 2004 and has welcomed 20,000+ professionals to those events. She shares her observations, insights and tips of how the top 2% of effective and magnetic networkers build their businesses. She also shares what NOT to do when networking. Get her complimentary e-book: Strategic Networking for Success.
Sabrina Risley