Networking events are important for business owners and salespeople alike. It gives you an opportunity to mingle alongside other community leaders and learn more about local business as well as showing yours off. There are a few best practices when it comes to networking. There are also a few rules of thumb when it comes to standing out during these events.

BEFORE you go, there are a few things you want to do in order to get prepared. The first is doing your homework. Research the event ahead of time and try to find out what kind of businesses attend. Sometimes if the event is posted on social media you can see who the attendees are or people that are interested in going. This will help you achieve your goals, but also find whether the event is worth going to. Keep in mind what your goal is for this event. Are you trying to gain new leads? Are you just meeting new people? Knowing your goals ahead of time allows you to stay focused and accomplish what you went there for. It should go without saying, but dress to impress. Look professional and put together, it will also help with confidence. Finally, bring your business cards and bring enough. You don’t want to be that person that “just gave away your last one”.

DURING the event ensure you make a good and lasting impression on the people there. That starts by putting your technology away. You are there to network, you can stare at your phone later. Bring your A-game, confidence, and don’t forget to smile. Try to make eye contact while introducing yourself and listen for the other person’s name. The biggest part of making a networking event successful is being genuinely interested in the people you are meeting. Ask questions and learn more about them personally as well as business. During this time take notes that you feel will be necessary. You will need to make a follow-up phone call after the event, so take notes on some of the things you discovered about them and their business so you can include that as a conversational transition beyond the event. Then finally, when it’s your turn to share, don’t overdo it. Get straight to the point as to what your business offerings are. All you need to do is spark interest, the rest can follow up in deeper discussion outside of the event.

AFTER the networking event, you will want to take all of those business cards you collected and start working on your follow-ups. It’s ideal to follow up within 48 hours of the event, this way you are still fresh in their mind. Call or email, but reach out and ask to meet again to discuss prospective partnerships. This is also when the notes you took earlier come in handy. If there is anyone, in particular, you want to reach out to, personalizing it shows that you genuinely care about their business.

Overall, networking events can be awkward and could possibly waste time. But if you pay attention to what to do before, during, and after, you’ll be ready to grab some leads and explore new partnerships, and ultimately steal the spotlight at your next networking event.