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How to Make the Most of Your Next Networking Event

Network event..

Does the idea of attending a networking event make you want to run in the other direction? Networking can be downright exhausting. For insurance agents and small business owners, networking events can be really beneficial.

If networking events are leaving you tired, frustrated and drained, it may be time for a new approach. Whether you’re a bubbly extrovert or a quiet introvert, these networking tips may help you meet the right people and leave your event with meaningful connections:

1. Practice your story. Stumbling over your words makes a poor first impression and negatively shapes the entire interaction. Start strong by mastering a one or two-line statement in advance that summarizes who you are and what you currently do (or would like to do). Practice short answers to the most frequently asked questions such as, “What brings you to this event?” and “What do you do?” When it’s your turn to talk, you’ll be ready to engage with confidence.

2. Show up early. Yes, showing up early can feel a bit awkward. But doing so also gives you a huge advantage over the other attendees: you can meet the event’s organizers first. On the blog Insurance Splash, John Carroll recommends showing up early in order to get a lay of the land before the crowds arrive. Carroll suggests complimenting the event's organizers on the event production and ask if there’s anyone they think you should definitely meet. Arriving before the crowds do will make it easier to strategize your time and connect with the right people.

3. Be curious. Inserting yourself into a group conversation is tricky. You don’t want to come off as rude for interrupting, but meeting new people is the point of networking events– standing on the sidelines because you’re afraid to interrupt won’t get you anywhere. Try this approach: when you join a group, wait for a lull in the conversation to quickly introduce yourself and then ask a follow up questions based on what the group has been discussing. You’ll be gracefully inserting yourself into the existing conversation rather than hijacking it. Listen genuinely to the response, be an active listener, and ask follow-up questions. People love to talk about themselves: give them an opportunity to do so and you’ll gain valuable insights into their interests, needs, and motivators.

4. Master the follow-up. Don’t let these new contacts languish as forgotten business cards in the back of your desk. Forbes contributing writer Darrah Brustein recommends sending a short email that references a topic in your conversation. For example, you might say: “Great to meet you tonight; best of luck with your business trip to Dallas next week.” Another option: “Thanks for the fantastic restaurant recommendation! Looking forward to trying it next time I’m in San Diego.” Once you’ve sent the initial email and connected on LinkedIn, make a note in your calendar to reach out again after a few weeks. Rather than simply asking to chat over coffee, send along a useful news article or pass along an invite to another valuable event. You’ll position yourself as a valued contact!

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