You’ve heard the old cliche that luck favours the prepared? Well, it’s a cliche for a reason—it’s true.

If you’ve committed to an upcoming networking event, you’ve got to take it seriously by putting in the work beforehand. What is the purpose of the event? Who is the host? Who will be in attendance? Know these things, and you’ll walk in confident—driven by a plan and a purpose. Know them not, and you’ll be just another wallflower staring at your shoes while you fumble for your words and mess up peoples’ names.

Say no to the event if you don’t think it will be worth your time, but if you commit, commit to the required preliminary preparation, as well.

Maximizing Your Networking ROI: Make it Count by Doing Your Homework

Preparation for an upcoming event should always come back to two questions on which all networking skills are focused:

    • What does success look like for this event?
    • Where do I have the opportunity to extract value?

Try to get a list of attendees beforehand. When you know who your company will be, you can identify targets and prepare custom-tailored questions for specific individuals. If not specific individuals, at least find out the job titles of the people who RSVP’d. This will help you avoid the drain of idle chit-chat, which serves no purpose and diminishes the event’s ROI.

Plan to Look Out for Number 1

Make sure you leave room for flexibility in your strategy. Plan to meet people who you didn’t know were coming, and plan to make connections and have chemistry with people that you didn’t anticipate. Also, prepare for exit strategies when you encounter the duds who are networking for networking’s sake. You have to avoid taking on any dead weight. If someone opens up with a tired old “what do you do?” or “is business going well?” respond with a real question, such as “what is your biggest challenge at the moment?”

If it is clear that the conversation is going nowhere, abandon ship. Make an excuse to go speak with someone across the room, or bring someone else into the conversation and then slip away.

Remember, what does success look like, and how can you extract value? Conversation for conversation’s sake with the awkward person you pity for standing alone is not the answer to either of those questions.

You should walk into every room with an objective, and that objective will be formed by doing meticulous preparation. Know where you’re going and know who you’ll be meeting, but most importantly, know what success looks like and how to achieve it.