GMA offers many events that bring business professionals together for networking. By attending, you have the opportunity to meet fellow members who may turn into your next clients, vendors, or referral partners. However, making the most of a networking event isn’t as simple as just showing up. Here are a few tips to make a networking event work for you.

  1.  Be prepared.

Before you arrive at the event, put some thought into what you want to say and how you want to present yourself. Prepare a statement (to last 15 seconds or less) that describes your business—keep it unique and memorable. Practice saying this, along with your name and company, in front of a mirror until it feels comfortable to you. Think about some of the most frequently asked questions, and have answers ready.

However, networking isn’t all about talking about yourself.  It’s about listening to others!  Think of some things you’d like to learn from the other attendees and have a few insightful questions in mind. And be sure to fully listen to their answers.  Jot down on the back of business cards the date, where you met, and any follow-up.

  1. Practice your handshake.

Ask a trusted friend for honest feedback on your grip. Your handshake should be firm and confident. You want to avoid the “limp fish” handshake as well as squeezing too hard.  Don’t forget to make eye contact and smile!

  1. Have a goal in mind.

Time is valuable! Make a networking event about more than just the free food, drink, and conversation by knowing what you want to accomplish before you arrive. Whether it’s meeting five people in a certain industry, having a substantive conversation with one person you’ve never met before, hoping to meet a specific individual, or just introducing yourself to a variety of people to hone your networking skills, setting a goal will certainly make the event more productive for you. If you are pressed for time, having a goal means you can choose to leave the event without guilt as soon as you’ve achieved your objective.

  1. Bring your business cards.

Bring more than you think you’ll need. At a GMA event, you’ll not only need cards to exchange with the people you meet but also to use to play the sticker game! Wear something with pockets so you don’t have to dig through your bag to find your cards when needed and to have a place to stash them when also trying to balance your refreshments.

  1. Wear a nametag.

If your company provides you with a nametag, be sure to bring it with you. If not, consider having a professional one made. You can get nametags at any local engraving, awards, or print shop for a nominal fee. If you are handwriting your nametag, it’s important to write large and legibly.  If your handwriting is not attractive, ask the registration volunteers to do it. Put your first and last name and your company name. If your industry isn’t clear from your company name, write that as well. Your nametag should always be placed on your right so that when shaking hands, the nametag is in the sight line.