Selena Soo is a publicity and business strategist who helps experts, authors and coaches, build their brand and increase their influence. The founder of Impacting Millions was on a recent episode of Pat Flynn's Smart Passive Income Podcast, where she shared her top tips for networking with influencers, but these tips merely scratched the surface of her deep knowledge of networking, relationship building and publicity.
Below are some of her top tips for preparing for a networking event in order to maximize the number and quality of connections you make.
1. Write Down Your Goals For The Event
Before you head out to a meet-up or happy hour, get clear on your objectives so you can optimize your actions both before you go and once you're there. "Take time to think through why you're attending, who you want to meet, and what you'd like to achieve," Soo says.
Write down what you're hoping to accomplish, and the types of people you're hoping to connect with. If there's an attendee list, you can note specific individuals you want to meet, but even without a list, you can create "types" of people you want to connect with; potential clients, local media, fellow podcasters, etc. Consider exploring why those goals are important to you to make sure your objectives are clear. Without clear goals, you won't be able to measure if you've been successful.
2. Research The People You Want To Meet
If you're able to find the names of speakers and fellow attendees that you'd be interested in meeting, you need to do some homework so you have a basis for those introductory conversations. Arming yourself with information maximizes the chance that those conversations will be productive and memorable.
"Google them. Look up their LinkedIn page. See if they have a personal or business website. Look at their Facebook page or profile to learn about what's important to them or what they're working on," Soo suggests. "Knowing even just a few tidbits about their lives and business will help you spark a connection right away."
3. Reach Out In Advance
"No need to wait for the event to start connecting," Soo says. If you've researched the folks you're most interested in meeting, you can send them a personal email to let them know that you'll be there as well, and you're interested in connecting.
If you aren't able to track down specific contact information (or even if you are!) consider posting to your social accounts using the event hashtag that you'll be attending the event and you're interested in meeting like-minded folks. If the event is a large conference with an app or a designated Facebook Group or other community, consider posting an introduction there as well, to maximize your visibility with fellow attendees.
4. Plan Your Outfit
Yep. You read that right. "Consider planning your outfit at least a day or two before the event so you can put your best foot forward," Soo says. "You want your appearance to send the right message about your business."
Choose something clean, professional, wrinkle-free and appropriate for the event theme and location. If your event requires travel, be sure to check the weather so you're properly dressed for conditions, and consider a removable outer layer, since many event spaces will crank up the air conditioning to compensate for having so many people packed into a small space.
"In today's social media-driven age, there's a good chance you'll get tagged in someone's photo or video," Soo notes, "So you want to look your best."
5. Create A Contact Information Strategy
"One problem that often arises from meeting new people is that their contact info ends up all over the place," Soo says. "You get a business card from one person, a scribbled name and number on a napkin from another, and you write someone else's info on a random page in your event binder."
If the information you collect is disorganized or inconsistent, it's unlikely you'll be able to do meaningful follow-up, so spend some time figuring out how you'll collect and keep track of contact information.
Soo suggested designating a pocket or envelope as the sole place you'll put business cards so they're all in one place, and using a single notebook or sheet of paper to collect any other contact information not on a business card.
6. Be Prepared To Talk About Your Work
"Because people will likely ask about what you do, it's helpful to have in mind three interesting or compelling talking points about your business," Soo says. "These should relate to your ideal client in some way and show them how you help people."
When compiling these talking points, focus on those things that make you and your work most unique and keep it concise. The goal is to be interesting and memorable, but not to give a monolog.
"You don't only want to talk about yourself," Soo advises. "You can use these as jumping off points for back-and-forth conversations. This means asking them questions about what they do, and what brought them to the event."
For more tips on preparing for and getting the most out of networking events, check out "The Ultimate Guide To Meeting People At Events."