5 Goals You Should Try to Accomplish at Any Work Event

If the words “work event” strike fear (or at least a little anxiety) into your heart, you’re not alone. Conferences, career fairs, and trade shows have earned a reputation for awkward small talk and uncomfortable sales pitches. But when approached correctly, work events promise powerful networking opportunities that can be a major boon for your career. Whether you’re heading to a board meeting or a professional development conference like 10X Growth Con or Tec Talks, here are five objectives that will help you maximize the event’s impact on your career.

Arrive prepared.

Before attending any work event, you should aim to do some reconnaissance:

  • Research the event’s organizers so you can thank them for their efforts (and make a networking connection in the process)
  • Research the keynote speakers so you can come prepared with thoughtful questions or conversation starters should you get to meet them in person
  • Investigate any big-name attendees as well as the general demographic that typically attends the event so you can brainstorm ways to connect with this potential audience
  • If you’re committed to meeting specific people, research their professional accomplishments and personal backgrounds so you can identify any commonalities that could help you make a connection

Once you’ve researched who will be in attendance at the event, make a goal of connecting with a certain number of people there. Emphasize quality over quantity; you want to make real connections, not just slip your business card into the unwitting hands of a hundred people. Five real connections is usually a reasonable number to aim for.

Speaking of business cards: If you don’t already have one, set a goal of developing a well-designed, stand-out business card prior to the event so you can distribute it to your new contacts while you’re there.

Perfect your elevator pitch.

This is an aspect of being well-prepared, but it’s important enough that it deserves its own entry. If you’re heading to a work event with the goal of networking, then it’s critical to have something of substance to say to new contacts. And given that you probably won’t be sitting down for a leisurely lunch or spending all day with new contacts, you’ll need to get to the point. A good elevator pitch should convey what you do professionally, what your professional goals are, and one or a few of the driving factors behind these goals—all in a few sentences or less. It’s important to prepare some thoughts in advance so you don’t come up short when someone inevitably asks “What do you do?”

Make genuine connections.

People don’t take well to knowing they’re being used. That’s why it’s so important to enter conversations with new contacts with a focus on learning about them more so than learning about what they can do for you. To that end:

  • Make sure to remember the names of every new person you meet. If you need to surreptitiously jot down notes in your phone or on a scrap of paper that you keep in your pocket, do it
  • Ask them questions about themselves, and demonstrate sincere interest in their responses
  • Focus on finding commonalities and discussing shared backgrounds and interests
  • In general, aim to listen more than you speak

After the event, jot down a few notes on all the contacts you made. This will allow you to refresh yourself on these details before reconnecting with any of these new contacts in the future.

Expand your networking potential via social media.

Many events now make a point of having a social media presence characterized by hashtags, group chats, and so on. Participating in these conversations during and after the event can help you connect with even more people and earn you new followers on social media. Even if there isn’t a specific hashtag devoted to the event, sharing a Tweet or Instagram with the event’s name in the caption can capture the attention of anyone who’s searching for said event.

Don’t get drunk.

Many people turn to alcohol when they’re feeling anxious in social situations. While this is an understandable coping mechanism, drinking heavily at a work event is a surefire way to make all your other networking efforts backfire. Unless you want to be remembered as “that person who climbed up on the table during the keynote speech,” keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. If you know you’ll be feeling socially anxious at the event, provide yourself with other coping mechanisms such as exercising to burn off steam before the event, taking regular breaks in the bathroom or outside, bringing along a buddy for social support, and so on.

If you can achieve each of these objectives prior to and during a work event, you’ll greatly enhance your potential to make meaningful connections that can have a profound impact on the direction of your career.

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