Get the Most Out of Your Next Networking Event

You walk into a crowded room, and … panic! It’s your first event with the local chapter of your professional association. Relax. Use these tips to prepare, mingle and follow up.

  • Set a goal. For example: I will talk with five people during the informal time before the speaker and get their business cards. (You may find you end up talking to more!)
  • Prepare a response to the “Tell me about yourself” question. Known as the “elevator speech” or the “30-second commercial” (google these terms for lots of suggestions), it’s simply 3-5 key points about you as a professional that you will modify, depending on the context.
  • Have two questions you can use with anyone to start a conversation. Some of my favorites are “So what brings you out to this meeting today?” and “How did you first hear about this organization?” followed by “What have you found most valuable for your professional development?”.
  • Ask the event organizers if you can get a list of participants/attendees in advance (look for the President or Program chair on the organization’s website). Peruse the list and make a mental note of any you would especially like to meet.
  • Bring business cards. If you don’t have business cards, get some, or make some using micro-perforated sheets you can run through your printer.
  • Wear clothing with two pockets, one to hold your business cards and a pen, the other to hold the business cards you receive.
  • I often look for individuals who aren’t talking to anyone, or groups of two to join.
  • Introduce yourself, and use one of your opening questions, or join the conversation going on.
  • You can leave a conversation by saying, “I don’t want to take up all your time this morning/evening; do you have a card so I could follow up with an email?”
  • Before you start talking with someone else, jot a few notes on the back of the individual’s business card: what you talked about, and what follow up you’ll take.
  • Within 24 hours, follow up with each person you talked with. In some cases, it may just be a “nice to have met you” email and a request to connect on LinkedIn. In other cases, you may want to request a phone call or in –person meeting to continue your discussion, ask for advice, or get to know each other’s business interests better. Sean Hand ’09 wrote a great blog on how to follow-up, including an email template.

View additional ideas online. Let me know your strategies for getting the most out of networking events.

Need help with your “elevator speech” or some other career-related issue? Contact Debra Franke, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations for Alumni Career Programs at or 215-991-3582.