Alumnae Jody Fletcher (BSc Food Marketing 2000) shares some invaluable advice for professional networking:
So, you've made the decision to attend a networking meeting – well done, the first big step has been taken! So now you need to make sure that you're prepared before you leave.
I've been to lots of networking events over the years including as part of the organising teams – I love networking, it's so much fun! But I know that for many people, the fear of the unknown, or the "what if's" can get in the way of your success.
Familiarise yourself with the details – Where is it (check Google Maps if you don't know the venue – Google Earth will likely show you what the building looks like!), check the date and, most importantly, the time!
Check who else is going – Ask in your own group of friends/business contacts – is anyone else going? This not only helps to spread the word about the meeting and encourages other business owners to take a look, but it could also mean that before you even get to the meeting, you will have the reassurance of a friendly face in the room when you arrive.
Is there a dress code? – Some meetings are much more formal than others – if there isn't a dress code, I would always say wear what you feel most comfortable in, or that best represents your business! It can often be a good idea to wear something branded too as this can help you stand out / be remembered.
Prepare yourself – What will you say to people who ask what your business/position is? Think of something short and punchy. You will need to get their attention quickly and engender some interest in your business or skill sets.
Make sure that you have enough business cards/literature to hand over to anyone who shows an interest – make sure that your business cards have all the relevant details on too! It's easy to get carried away with the design features and forget to add your name, or your telephone number!
Take a pen – and a notepad – It's so easy to forget what people have said when the group is large – make notes of who you want to talk to after the meeting, and any information that you've agreed to send over.
Attend the meeting and engage with the delegates there – Arrive in plenty of time and talk to as many people as you can. Remember that you might need their business services as well as them needing yours – so swap business cards. Often the people you think will never be your customer, or vice versa turn out in time to be some of the best contacts at recommending you so it's always worth getting to know as much as you can about people and never discount anyone!
Follow Up – After the meeting, make sure that you get in contact with those people you want to stay in touch with. Connect with them on LinkedIn, send them an email (particularly important if you’ve agreed to send over some information) and add their contact details to your filing system so that you can find them easily when you need to get in touch again.
Remember – networking is all about the relationship… it's not likely that you will walk into a networking group and walk out with a new customer or contact, it can take weeks if not months of regularly attending meetings, building the connections, and nurturing relationships, but if you do it right, I am yet to find an industry that networking doesn't work for.
There is nothing to be scared of – as long as you have confidence, you'll be just fine!
We would like to thank Jody for kindly allowing us to share excerpts from her LinkedIn post 'Top Tips for attending a networking event'. Jody is founder of Chilli Promotional Products, which provides a customer-focused approach to clients looking to source corporate gifts, promotional merchandise and personalised clothing. Whilst working in Sales and Marketing with local SMEs, Jody broadened her knowledge of the importance of brand awareness and customer loyalty to businesses in a highly competitive environment. Recognising many companies sold promotional products and marketing incentives, Jody recognised a gap in the market for a more individual and consultative approach.
Newcastle University hosts and organises regular networking events for graduates. The NCL Professional Network supports and develops our graduates' careers and professional networks. Launched in 2016, the NCL Professional Network enables alumni to enhance their portfolio of contacts, meet fellow alumni and friends working in related professions and hear from leading speakers in their sector.
Do you have any other networking tips or career advice you could share with fellow alumni or current students? Head over to our LinkedIn group where you can start your own discussion or pose a question to fellow group members.
If you are a Newcastle graduate and would also like to share your own experiences, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.