Networking 101: How to Find a Networking Event
We all know the value of building a professional network. It seems everywhere you look someone is talking about how important it is to build those connections that propel us both professionally and personally. But where do you find these networking events? How do you identify those opportunities for professional networking? Actually, it’s a lot easier than you might think.
Networking opportunities are everywhere; you just need to know where to look. They may not be called “networking events,” but that doesn’t mean that the prospect won’t exist for making important contacts. A little out-of-the-box thinking can go a long way when you are building your network. It’s all in the approach.
Megan Bozzuto, Senior Marketing Business Partner at IAW shares her experience:
“I once attended an event for web developers in the Boston area as this was an area where I was interested in expanding my skills. In between sessions I would ask those sitting around me questions specific to their experiences with different website themes and tools. I ended up with five new connections from a three-hour event — all women whom I’ve now worked with to help troubleshoot issues, find new jobs, and collaborate on projects. Our conversations all started in a low-pressure way and naturally continued to the point that we wanted to continue the conversation later. Don’t force the connection, but let it happen naturally.”
Are you feeling like the networking well is dry in your area? Turn these opportunities into your own networking events and build your connections.
Unexpected Opportunities for Professional Networking
When you step back and really look, there are plenty of networking events even if they aren’t labeled as such. Here are our top picks for networking opportunities in disguise:
- IAW events – As an IAW member you can connect with other members in your own community by attending local chapter events. You can also make vital connections virtually through IAWomen.com or eChapter.
- College alumni events – The attendees at these types of events are usually quite diverse, allowing you to uncover hidden gems through unexpected connections.
- Industry events – Conferences, seminars, and training sessions present great opportunities to connect with other professionals who share the same interests, passions, and career path as you.
- Company events – Depending on the size of your company, you can often find opportunities to network at company-sponsored events and outings.
- Small-business events – Your local Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Administration can be goldmines for networking. They often have educational and informational meetings and lectures that bring professionals under one roof. Tap into those gatherings and create your own networking opportunities.
Any gathering of like-minded people can be turned into a networking opportunity. Don’t let titles restrict you. Just because it isn’t publicly identified as a networking event doesn’t mean you can’t turn it into one and reap the benefits.
Creating Connections in Any Setting
The first rule of networking is to have marketing material with you at all times. This can be in the form of business cards, mini contact cards, postcards, anything that introduces you and your business to the people you meet. Make sure your contact information is clearly printed, including phone number, email, website, and even social media profiles. The point is to give your contacts multiple channels of contact.
Open the door to good networking contacts by asking questions related to your industry, profession, and community. Discuss challenges that you face or that you see in your industry and let that naturally lead to conversations you can continue at a later time. By leaving that window open you encourage contact beyond the event. Just don’t forget to get the other person’s contact information as well. Then make sure that you follow through with the follow up because that is how relationships are formed — which is the entire point of networking in the first place.
Join the International Association of Women and start building your network today. Learn more by visiting our website, and discover your potential as a professional and beyond.