12 Ways to Be an All-Star at Your Next Networking Event

11/28/2016 10:02 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Whether you love to connect with other professionals or not, you'll never know how you networked without these tips before.

 

A. Bring a Networking Wingperson

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For any networking event, it can be helpful to have a networking "wingperson." Together, you can naturally draw others into your conversation. This is particularly true if your wingperson is knowledgeable about an industry you are unfamiliar with. If nothing else, the event will provide you with an opportunity to get to know your wingperson better. - Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

A. Prioritize Genuine Connections

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One or two real connections are worth a lot more than a stack of business cards from people you won't remember. Focus on authentic connections with people whom you may want in your life moving forward. Ask real questions to get to know people, and be sure to listen more than you talk. When you follow up, offer to add value where you can, whether it's information, a connection or a recommendation. - Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

A. Connect With the Right Three People

2016-11-14-1479136301-6467694-ChristopherKelly.jpgI arrive early, connect with the event organizer, and ask him or her to think of the three people in the room who they think I should meet. Doing so immediately leverages social capital and mitigates getting sucked into meaningless conversations that do nothing to improve my business. - Christopher Kelly, Convene

A. Put on a Smile

2016-11-14-1479136334-2491837-KristopherJones.pngPeople gravitate towards others who smile and have fun. Having attended over 100 networking events over the last 17 years, I can tell you that nothing is more effective for building your network than smiling and having fun. Yes, you'll want to develop a reputation as a smart person who gets things done, but if you can parlay expertise with a great attitude and a smile, you'll build a huge network. - Kristopher Jones, LSEO.com

A. Do Some Pre-Event Research on LinkedIn

2016-11-14-1479136364-5958150-AndrewHoeft.jpgFaces we recognize stick out in a crowd; name tags don't. If you have a list of people you want to meet at an event but can't put a face to their name, look them up on LinkedIn. Refer back to their pages several times before the event so that you can begin to recognize them by their profile picture alone. You can even use their profile information to craft a conversation starter. - Andrew Hoeft Date Check Pro

A. Reach Out in Advance

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Important people sometimes get pulled in many directions at networking events, so if the guest list is published, reach out to key prospects in advance to improve your odds of making contact. If you plan to meet them for the first time at the event, come armed with a question and get your elevator pitch (tailored to that person) nailed down in advance. - Ashley Mady, Brandberry

A. Plan a Post-Networking Activity

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Networking events can be overwhelming and distracting. Though you can make plenty of connections over cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, it can be hard to leave a lasting impression when you're competing with dozens of other folks who have interesting backgrounds and stories. I try to plan a post-networking activity to bring together people I meet and form more personal connections. - Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

A. Have a Back Pocket Question Ready

2016-11-14-1479136465-7401123-NicoleMunoz.pngNetworking events can tax even extroverts, so it helps to have a standard question in your back pocket that you can use when the conversation starts to falter. It can be something simple or intriguing, but it should be a conversation starter that will let you segue into other areas. Your back pocket question should also depend on the type of networking event you're attending. - Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

A. Practice Your Communication Skills

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Networking is a complex dance of social interactions unlike any other. You'll often repeat the same micro-conversations to several individuals, all while trying to retain the information the room has to offer. Prime your social skills by attending a local watering hole several days or weeks before the event, and take part in socializing with the community. Like anything, good communication takes practice. - Blair Thomas, First American Merchant

A. Do Your Research

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I take the time to research other attendees and their businesses so I have a better understanding of who will be there and identify specific people I want to talk to. I don't try to sell in-person, but I always have my business cards ready, and I follow up with everyone I meet promptly after the event. - Ismael Wrixen, FE International

A. Set a Goal (Or a Few) For the Night

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When I attend a networking event, I prepare by having at least one goal in mind. Whether that goal is to find a potential new client, build a new business relationship with a potential partner, or learn something new from another industry member, I always know that I am accomplishing something that will benefit me and my company. - Bryanne Lawless, BLND Public Relations

A. Be Curious

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Curiosity shows that you have an open mind, and having an open mind helps you relate with almost anyone. Asking questions about others and genuinely being interested in what others do or what accomplishments they have achieved will make you likable. Stay curious, always ask open-ended questions and listen to make any networking event a success. - Chad Keller, WUDN

These answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.