Before, During, and After a Networking Event – How to Get The Most Out Of It All

I’m back from my trip to New York City, where I met with 80 other amazingly talented Dreamers Into Doers and Martha Stewart’s staff, and as always, it was fantastic. Everything about the event is always picture perfect. And meeting so many other creative women always gets me motivated to jump back into my work full speed ahead.

So, it’s good to be home, and back with my kiddos, but there’s also lots of catching up to do. I thought it would be a good idea in today’s post to talk about the best way to prepare for a networking event like the Dreamers Into Doers conference, or really any blogging conference, artisans gathering, etc., how to maximize the limited networking time you actually have at the event, and also give my tips for what to do afterwards, to make sure you stay connected with all of the people you’ve met, and get the most out of the overload of information you receive. These are just my suggestions. I try to get these accomplished before, during, and after every large event I go to. I’ve road tested them myself, but you may need a little tweaking. Hopefully they will at least help get you started!

1. Join the conversation Yes, your inbox will be on fire in the days leading up to the event with questions about who’s getting there when and does anyone want to share a cab, but there will be important info in the mix that you don’t want to miss. Add yourself to the email group, but create a filter in your email so that all of these messages get set aside. This way your inbox isn’t constantly overflowing, and you can set aside an hour at night to quickly go through all of these messages. Quickly delete the “does anyone want to grab a bite to eat the first night” but respond to the “I’m hoping to meet people that can help me grow my business in the following ways…”
PS…Here’s a great how-to video if you need help setting up labels and filters in gmail!

2. Match names and faces This is the one scenario where cheat sheets are ok! Print out a spreadsheet with the following three things: name, business, picture (of the person or even  just of a logo if that’s all you can find!) You don’t need to memorize it, but get familiar with it. Star people that you know you want to connect with. Look it over on the train on your way into the city, and give it one last glance before you head out of your hotel room to breakfast the first morning. Trust me. You’ll feel so much more comfortable walking into a room of strangers, if you know their names and can introduce yourself. And, if you’ve studied enough, start a conversation about their business!

*Keep Good Notes! Keep this cheat sheet up to date! Make notes next to people you want to talk more to. Jot down notes if you’d like to email them. Did you connect on a personal level? Did you share a joke or a silly story? Write it down! These are all things that will help that person remember you when you reach out to them after the event.

1. Stay Put Remember, you are there to network! Yes, you’re away from your kids, and would love some quiet time, or maybe you’re excited to get out and have some fun in a new city with new friends, but (and trust me, I hate to be a party pooper) that’s not what you’re there for! If there are dinners related to the event scheduled where you can continue conversations with potential partners for projects, and deepen the business relationships you are making, go for it. Make the most of every minute you are there!

2. Keep us up to date Tweet, post, share…do it all. We want to see the connections you are making. Are you enjoying the workshop you’re sitting in? Find the presenter on Twitter, post a quick tweet, and tag them. Nine times out of ten, they will follow you back by the end of the day…and that is a great way to make a connection if you want to contact them to talk further after the conference is over.

*Hashtags exist for a reason! If there already is a hashtag in place for the event you are attending, use it! It’s a great way to connect with people. You can quickly see everyone that has tweeted using the hashtag, get to know what parts of the event they are enjoying (which makes starting a conversation so much easier!), and tweet back to them…furthering the connections you are making. It’s a win/win! And PS…if there’s not a hashtag already in place, make one! I suggested in a forum that we use #DIDinNYC for my Martha trip because a hashtag had not yet been decided upon, and everyone said perfect…it’s that simple!

1. Go through your notes Follow up on all those leads you were writing down on your cheat sheet. Open the doors for working together and collaborating in the future. Include that personal connection so the reader instantly remembers who you are.

*Do you have an avatar? I’m not sure if all/most email accounts come with an avatar, but if yours does, take advantage of it. My little picture goes along with every email I send out, and is the perfect little “Oh! That’s who this is from!” when I’m connecting with people I’ve met at an event.

2. Share pictures Organize or contribute to a photo sharing account. Sure, you’ll get access to more pictures to include in your blog posts and recaps, but it’s another way to stay connected. If you see someone has great pictures, tell them! Ask what kind of camera they have. Have they taken photography classes? Just because the event is over does not mean your relationship with all of the talented people you have met has to be, too.
PS…I’ve used PhotoBucket and Shutterfly in the past. Create a separate account from your personal one. Share the login info with anyone that wants to contribute. Be clear with where these pictures can be used, and if you’d like photo credit to be given in publication.

PS…A few notes on the pictures included above. The first picture was taken outside of the Martha television studio, while waiting to go in for a taping of her show. The notebook shown in the “Before you go!” picture is part of her new line of office supplies available at Staples. That is Terri Shapiro of Deluxe Corporation speaking to us about PR and marketing in the “While you’re there!” picture. And the last picture is the beautiful centerpieces at the event…you know Martha thinks of every last detail!

PPS…On a very personal note, thank you to all of you that have reached out to me, checked in on me, and sent me sweet words of encouragement regarding the passing of my grandmother. Many of you met my Annie, here, years ago…long before I knew Nikki, In Stitches would grow to be the successful business that it has. All of your support has meant the world to me, and I am so very, very grateful.

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27 Responses to Before, During, and After a Networking Event – How to Get The Most Out Of It All

  1. Debbie Maddy says:

    Hi Nikki
    Great post, wonderful ideas for managing the trip.

  2. Brilliant post! Loved your ideas and photos, and especially enjoyed meeting you in NYC! Best to you always, Nikki!
    P.S. so sorry to hear about your grandmother – sending you hugs and lots of love. xo

  3. Wendy Diem says:

    Great post Nikki! Wish I would’ve had this post before I went this year. LOL If there’s one next year and I’m lucky enough to go, I will be sooo organized! So glad I hooked up with the PA caravan to get to the city.

  4. Thank you Nikki! Such a great post of wonderful suggestions.
    I loved meeting you and want to keep in touch. You are such a sweetie! Congrats again on the Suri order, what a thrill. I told you before you are on your way! xoxo

  5. Peggy says:

    Nikki, this is terrific. Also a nudge that I haven’t completed my follow up doc file I made before the event – one w/ the pics, names and businesses. It is hard to maintain the connections without pre & post planning in mind. You’ve helped us all:)

    Sending love & condolences on the loss of your grandmother.

  6. Nikki ~ great post!! I’m copying all of this down so I can use it again!! So happy to meet you in person!! Love you girl!! So sorry to hear about your grandmother. I lost my last one in January of this year. It’s so hard! I’m here if you need to talk.

  7. Great post, Nikki! It was wonderful meeting you in New York! You’re a sweet and amazing person and I’m glad to be able to call you a friend! 🙂

    I just got the headbands out of the mailbox that I ordered from you! Love them!! Going to send you a pic of them on my daughters soon! 🙂

    My thoughts and prayers to you and your family on your loss….

  8. Nikki says:

    Oh! All of you are the best!! Thank you!
    I’m so happy this post is helpful. I feel like there is at least one tip in here that everyone can use, even if you’re already home from an event.
    And PS…Thank you again for your sweet words about my grandmom. I know I’ve got a pretty special lady watching over me now. ♥

  9. Aya Turner says:

    Great post Nikki! I actually never thought of creating an avatar for my emails … a no-brainer and really great advice! 🙂

  10. Kate Sanner says:

    Excellent post, Nikki! Every part of networking is important, but follow-up is vital. Thanks for the wonderful tips!

  11. Kristin says:

    Great ideas Nikki!
    I would love to attend more live events, but I have trouble finding them. Any suggestions?

    • Nikki says:

      Happy to help, Kristin!
      Of course there are the big ones…Blogher, Blissdom, SNAP, The Creative Connection Event. If you’d like to go to one of those, are one just as large and popular, you can usually sign up for their mailing list, and be alerted of dates and registration deadlines. For the smaller events, keep your eyes on what other business similar to yours are talking about. You’ll see people mention events on Twitter and Facebook…don’t be afraid to ask them when and where they are taking place! Also, if you’d like to just join a networking group, most mid to large cities have regular networking events for female business owners!

  12. Bird says:

    Great tips and advice from a pro!
    If I ever make the trip, will be sure to take notes! 😉

  13. Thanks for your insights, Nikki. Doers is a splendid opportunity for entrepreneurial women to share strategies and help one another to reach their goals. Your post does just that!

  14. Sandra says:

    Great post!! I love that you shared this’s so competitive out’s nice to see that you’re willing to share the info that you learned.

  15. Thanks Nikki for the the great info!

  16. victoria says:

    A good post… and blessings to you and your family with the loss of your grandmother… plant a garden or a tree in her memory… a wonderful living tribute to loved ones who have past away.


  17. Great post Nikki. So sorry about your grandmother. Love the post you wrote about her. Sounds like a great lady!!

  18. This is so timely since we have so much to think about running our businesses, organizational tips really help.

  19. Mariann Tillberg says:

    It’s the first time when i’ve seen your site. I can see lots of hard work has gone in to it. It’s really good.

  20. Thanks for a great article, Nikki! I pinned the Before You Go picture to keep this in my Pinterest files. I am just starting to head out to events like this and these tips were invaluable.

  21. Barbara Terry says:

    Hi Nikki,
    This post is also a great reference tool for business networking. My husband and I own an insurance agency and the tips are great for the insurance events we attend.
    Thank you!

  22. Nikki:
    It was a pleasure meeting you at BlogWorld and great tips above. I love the idea of a photo cheat sheet and connecting with people before hand. I’m all about what I call, “#Hashtags to Handshakes.”

    • Nikki says:

      Mike! I’m so happy you liked the post! And your “#hashtags to Handshakes” program is spot on!
      It was great to meet you, too, and I’m looking forward to connect again soon!

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