How to get the most out of your next networking event

By Hector Cisneros

That next, big networking social is coming up, but are you ready? Here are some tips to get the most out of your next networking event using proven techniques that will bring home results.

1. Have a plan. One of the first things is to always go to a networking event with a plan. Ask yourself, “Who am I looking to be introduced to? What new businesses have I been working this month? Which professions often send me referrals?”

Establish if you are there to get referrals for yourself or for others. It can be very beneficial to bring three business cards from one of your referral partners and work to specially get them referrals that day as well. Use the above questions to help you create your list of six to 12 categories or people you are looking to meet.

Remember, networking events are great places to invite potential guests for that organization. It is easy to invite people to a social, and it is also a great way to introduce them to the power of networking, and, more importantly, it will build your credibility with the host organization.

2. Know the length. Be sure to take into account how long the meeting is. Essentially, for every 10 minutes of meeting time, you can effectively talk to at least one person. In an hours’ time, that’s six people; in two hours’ time, you could have at least 12 names. It is possible to talk to a lot more people—especially if you are talking to small groups of people at a time.

3. Bring business tools. Make sure you bring plenty of business cards, at least 50 for big events, as well as a pen and a pocket notepad. If you have a business card file with your referral partners’ cards in it, bring that too. This could be a great opportunity to find referrals for them. These are all important business tools.

4. Make connections. When speaking with attendees, ask who they are looking for and see if you can make a connection for them. It will make a big impression on them and build your credibility. After they tell you about themselves, ask them to introduce you to the people on your list. By helping them find their connections, you have empowered them to help you.

5. Prepare your presentation. Once you have your list, decide what you want to say as your 60-second presentation. Don’t ask for too many categories or people—ask for no more than three at a time. If you get to meet your first three prospects, you can start on another three.

In a 60-second presentation, you can say something like, “Tell me about your business (or who are you looking to be introduced to),” and then listen. When it is your turn, say something like, “I’m on a mission to  meet these three people, (or introduce my partners).” After that, most people will try to introduce you if they can.

6. Seek referrals. If you’re looking to get referrals for someone else, remember the three card trick. Select a referral partner you have decided to help and ask everyone you meet, “I have a friend who has helped me out a lot this month, and I want to repay their kindness. Who do you know here who is _____?” Then fill in the blank with the people your referral partner is looking to be introduced to! (Obviously, you have to know who they need.)

Use this technique at every networking event you attend and you will always have referrals for your strategic partners.

7. Stay focused. When attending the actual event, focus on your list. Don’t be distracted, stay on task, and don’t drink or eat too much. You’re there to market your business or get referrals for others and meet very specific categories’ of people.

With your list of who you want to meet, start working the room from right to left and go through each section of the room until the entire room has been covered, then start over again. In two hours, you should be able to go through the room twice.

Make sure every person you talk to knows who you’re looking to be introduced to. Furthermore, let them know that you would appreciate that they mention it to their referral partners as well.

At the end of this event you should have about 12 names to follow up on. This is not the best place to try and sell somebody your product or service, especially if they don’t know you. Take the time to get to know them and build trust through face-to-face meetings.

Use these tips at your next networking event and get more business!

Hector Cisneros is a 17-year veteran of BNI, was BNI Director for more than six years, and is still a member in good standing in the River City Chapter. He is an entrepreneur and businessman with more than 30 years of networking experience. Currently, he manages three businesses and coaches’ business people in the fine art of Internet and word-of-mouth marketing. He can be contacted at 904-712-9355, or through his blog at

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