Networking events are great for making connections and expanding your list of contacts. Both your personal and business brand can benefit from these outings by planting the seeds for meaningful professional relationships.
If you want to stand out in the minds of those you meet at a networking event, you’ll need to come prepared to make an exceptional first impression. Below, 12 members of Forbes Communications Council share the best ways to introduce yourself to new networking contacts. Follow their advice—then follow up to continue building the relationship.
Members of Forbes Communications Council offer suggestions for making a memorable impression when meeting someone new at a networking event.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS.
1. Give Them A Visual Cue
Everybody knows that having a unique business card is important, but I recommend taking it a step further. I literally have a picture of myself on my business card—almost like a baseball card. Networking events are super chaotic, and often people won’t remember who was who, but they do remember faces. If your picture is on your card, you are literally associating your face to your name. – Gabriella Sophia Doucas, Elutions
2. Prepare A One-Sentence Pitch
Craft one sentence that concisely describes who you are and what you do. Then create a question around it that you can ask others about how they are achieving success in that area. That way you prompt them to tell you challenges that you are available to help with. – Jessica Hennessey, Resonate Online, LLC
3. Leave Your Title Out Of It
Leave the title at the office when attending networking events. Littering your opening line with a long, complicated title is confusing and self-promoting and it wastes valuable introduction time. Companies use different titles and levels across industries. Introducing yourself with “senior vice president and chief operating officer of the Northeast” will be lost. Just tell me your name and company. – Brittany White, Apple Growth Partners
4. Ask A Question About The Other Person
When you introduce yourself, immediately ask a question about the other person. I often start with a question about what their business does, where they are located or what part of their job they love most. When you show interest in someone else before telling them about you, you demonstrate that you are ready to genuinely engage with them. – Holly Chessman, GlowTouch Technologies
5. Tell Your Brand Story
Too many people go to a networking event ready to pitch their service or organization. Instead, focus on making connections and telling the story of your brand—and this starts with how and why it connects with you. Don’t focus on a pitch or “selling” your brand. When you use a story, you connect with people on a human level and it’s more likely people will remember you and your organization. – Christina Hager, Overflow
6. Engage In An Authentic Conversation
I avoid the grilling of name, company, title, location, etc., which gives the impression of, “What can you do for me?” Those can come in time. Instead, I inquire about their needs and see if I can be helpful—such as asking their impressions of the event, what their goals are, what they are looking forward to and who they’d like to meet. It’s much easier to start an authentic conversation from these points. – Ellen Sluder, RingBoost
7. Watch Your Body Language
Stand tall, look people in the eye when they’re speaking to you, shake hands firmly and engage with a smile. Hopefully, those read as obvious to you, but they are often forgotten. Always remember that much of what you are communicating at any particular moment is nonverbal. – Alina Morkin, Voices.com
8. Talk About What Drives You
It’s easy to label yourself by your job title and company, but the best advice for networking is not to talk about what you do and instead discuss what it means to you. Do this by sharing your reasons for getting into the field, career or position you are currently in. Connecting on a personal level first will help engage others and they will more easily understand what you do and why you do it. – Jennifer Kyriakakis, MATRIXX Software
9. Prepare Some Key Talking Points About Yourself
Even if you are the most outgoing person in the room, striking up a conversation with someone new requires work. To make the process more enjoyable and productive, be prepared to talk about yourself in key talking points, such as what you do, why you are at the event, what you are looking to do and something interesting about yourself so there is a higher chance of being remembered by others. – Anna Lee, CultureIQ
10. Research Your Audience
I find doing a little homework on my own before going to a networking event is mutually beneficial. But my rule of thumb is to be genuine—do your bragging somewhere else. Be there to listen and learn from others. If the opportunity presents itself to teach what you might know, be willing to do it in a humble way. Speak with “we,” not “I.” – James Gilbert, CloudCherry
11. Be A Resource To Others
One of the best tips I’ve ever heard for navigating a networking event is to focus your attention on how you can help others who are there. Doing your homework on attendees is ideal, but if that’s not possible, ask questions and listen carefully. Clearly, you need to explain who you are and what you do, but people will have a compelling reason to remember (and think highly of) you as a resource. – Ann Boyd, Cherwell Software
12. Focus On The Personal Connection
When making connections at a networking event, a personal connection should come before business. Introduce yourself as if you were meeting a new friend. Find a common interest on a personal level to build that connection before getting down to business. People are more likely to trust you as a professional if they know who you are on a personal level. – Antoine Bonicalzi, Cyberimpact