Effective event networking - Part II: Be prepared
09 May 2017
Posted by: Olivia Palmer
Q&A: AAE Talks to Felicity Nelson about Networking
Does the word and act of networking fill you with dread? For many it does.
Louise Clarke talked to Felicity Nelson, Membership Relationships Manager and Marketing Manager at the UK Chamber of Shipping about her experiences of networking and she gave some valuable tips.
Q. Felicity, what does networking mean to you?
A. Networking is very important for me; so much happens in those chance conversations and through meeting a lot of people in your industry or with similar interests.
Q. What is your particular networking approach?
A. The approach is what is important and that is something I have learned after a long time spent dreading any sort of networking, I know now how important it is to just relax and enjoy it. Talk about something interesting and make an impression rather than just getting round the room and getting your message out! That way you will make worthwhile connections. Maybe networking needs a rebrand?
Q. What don’t you like about networking?
A. My pet hate is ‘lanyards’ – the neck strap name cards with a metal clip. I can’t find the person I need to speak to if everyone’s name badge is on a lanyard and has twisted round so I can’t see it. A guest list and name badges should be the minimum, but I do go to events without them. If that feels too formal for your event perhaps send a guest list to attendees before the event so they can look up the people they are aiming to speak to.
Q. How should event planners schedule networking sessions?
A. At a conference make sure there is enough time for networking in the breaks.
Seating is especially important at a lunchtime event as it is conducive to networking with people that aren’t the ones you are sitting with in the sessions.
Hosting is important. As a membership organisation, when we hold networking at events, it is our duty to make sure we are acting as good hosts and introducing people to others, especially if they are new to us.
Q. How do you make the most of networking at events?
A. Prepare – do some homework, ask for the guest list and do some research.
Don’t forget business cards – I try to buy dresses with pockets for this reason.
If you can, and it is appropriate, get in touch with some people before the event and suggest meeting up.
I tend to start with someone I know and then branch out or bring others into the conversation. This helps to ease any nervousness and make it enjoyable. Other tips are to arrive early, join groups that are standing in an open rather than a closed formation and go and talk to someone who is on their own.
Q. How do you ensure you meet everyone you want to meet?
A. Don’t aim too high; try to make a few quality connections that you can keep up.
See above re preparing.
Q. How do you ensure you keep in touch with new contacts following events?
A. Discipline – get in touch the next day, add them to your database/CRM/Contacts list and have an email list/newsletter that you can invite them to sign up to so you keep the contact up.
Felicity’s experiences of networking are not unusual, her tips on how to overcome them personally and on behalf of your membership and delegates are valuable and we hope useful for your next event.