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Marketing yourself 101: Boston professionals share their advice for making the most of a networking event

Posted by Alex Pearlman  January 26, 2012 05:44 PM

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networking events.jpgBy Lina Roque

The combination of a struggling economy, a host of unemployed professionals looking for work, and plenty of new grads eager for their first "real job" make for a wildly competitive job market these days. No longer is networking just something you do at an event -- and when you do attend a networking event, it's not enough to just show up: You need to get there on time, perfect your "elevator pitch," and, most importantly, show off your personality! A positive attitude and interested, friendly demeanor will help you establish a rapport more successfully than you will by taking yourself too seriously or over-promoting yourself.

But don't take it from me: I asked a few Boston-area professionals for their advice for success at networking events. These are their tips.

Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future and founder of Millennial Branding:

  • DO research the attendees' and event organizers' backgrounds before you step foot into a networking event.
  • DO spend 100 percent of your time with as few people as possible so you can build true relationships.
  • DON'T pass out business cards to all attendees. First, establish a relationship and find out if you can possibly work together.
  • DON'T over-promote yourself to the people you talk with; it will turn them away.
Diana Epstein, founder of See for Change and co-chair of Women in Wireless:
  • DO walk in with a purpose. Have a goal in mind of how many people you want to talk to -- and follow through!
  • DO research on the attendees. If you don't want to miss an opportunity to talk face-to-face, send a quick email and coordinate a meeting. Eventbrite usually displays a list of attendees.
  • DO look at someone's business card before you put it away. Later on, DO make a note of the date and event at which you met, so you can use it as a reference when you reach out.
  • DON'T use your phone as a security blanket or conversation crutch. Put it away for the event.
Adrian Wong, entrepreneurial curator:
  • DO come up with three conversation starters, just in case you get stuck in a slow conversation. For example, try "What was your favorite thing about the college you attended?" "What was the most interesting job you've had?" or "What is the best business decision you've made?"
  • DO hang around people you know. It's easier to absorb others by sheer numbers instead of integrating yourself into a large group. If you don't know anyone else there, DO hang around the food and drinks. You can even strike up a conversation by mentioning the food, unless it relates to weight or how bad it tastes.
  • DO start with a firm handshake, and maintain good eye contact. Make sure your hands are clean, not sweaty or dirty. No one likes clammy hands!
  • DON'T eat in large portions. You can't talk if you're busy stuffing your face. And DON'T drink too much; you don't want people remembering you for the wrong reasons.
Julian Jung, consultant for Northeast Real Estate Group:
  • DO figure out others' needs before you tell them all about yours. If you're going to pitch your business, keep it short, and use that introduction to find out what the person you're talking to needs.
  • DON'T dismiss anyone at these events. You never know when their skill set will be useful to you in the future.
Successful networking entails staying in touch, so your job's not over once you leave for the night. Find a reason to follow up with the people you met -- invite them to an upcoming event they might enjoy or, if you really want to continue your conversation, make a coffee date. If you had a good conversation the first time, chances are, you will have a good conversation the second time.

What are your dos and don'ts for attending a networking event?

Photo by Daniel Johnson

About Lina -- My life could be described as a cross between Eliza Thornberry's (hello '90s!) and 'Mean Girls,' having been home-schooled in the Amazon in my junior high years, then moving to Small Town, USA, and attending real high school. I attended and graduated business school with a hippie-meets-corporate-girl mentality and a passion for doing good and keeping it real. Now, I'm a hands-on media girl, tech-savvy, and have a desire to communicate news and trends from a multicultural perspective.

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