Attending networking events is a great way to meet new people, connect with the likeminded and expand your business and knowledge. But with so many on offer just attending networking events isn’t going to get you noticed. Here’s how you can get the most from them:

1 – Prepare before you go

Firstly, consider what you want to get out of the networking event. Do you want to meet more people in a certain industry? Do you want them to become your clients? Or do you want them to introduce you to clients? Are you looking to connect with a company that provides a particular service?

Once you’ve answered these questions you might want to work out whether the event is the right one for you. Is it in the right industry? Are any people you already want to work with going? Or is everyone else going to be looking for similar business to you without having any business to give you? Your time is valuable so if the networking event doesn’t match your goals it’s OK to duck out.

Research the list of attendees and speakers before you go and see who you’d like to meet, where you have common ground and how you can add value for them. If it’s a small event you might want to try asking the event organiser to introduce you to people, or even try to give a talk yourself.

2 – Don’t be a wallflower

It’s always good to meet as many people as you can, and the best way to do this is to give yourself a target. Don’t overstretch yourself. You want to make meaningful connections, but you never know where a good connection will come from.

If you struggle with connecting ask people lots of questions and get to know them. You can then work out where you might have common ground and where there might be opportunities to do business together.

3 – Know your story 

Articulate your business value succinctly. Know what you do, how you do it and, most importantly, why you do it. Practice giving your elevator pitch to everyone you know and ask for feedback before you go. Be ready to answer questions and make sure you believe in yourself. If you don’t have convictions in your message and what you’re selling nobody else will.

4 – It’s about the connections 

It’s all about connections, but not in the way you might think. Connecting other people with useful contacts is a great way to add value to their business and help people to remember you. If you’re not a natural salesperson you might be a connector, which is just as useful for your career and your company.

5 – Follow up

It’s all very well making strong connections at networking events but if you don’t follow up in the first 48 hours the likelihood of doing business with your new contact decreases dramatically. You don’t have to go straight in for the sales pitch either. Connect on LinkedIn and send them a nice to meet you message, send over some links or something useful you were talking about or follow them on Twitter. Everyone likes to be ‘liked’ on social media!