A few days ago I wrote about having rituals which would support your networking practice. One of the things we mentioned was setting out the material you might need for a networking event the night before — your networking event toolkit, so to speak. So, what sorts of things should (or could) be included in that pile?

  1. Business cards. We’ve mentioned that business cards are important before — and not for the reason that most people think — so, you wouldn’t think you would need this reminder. I will admit, though, that on more than one occasion I’ve showed up without mine. Don’t tell anyone.
  2. Business card holder. I like making us of a card holder just because it makes it easier to separate my cards from those that I receive. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, you could even use a large paper clip or a rubber band in a pinch.
  3. Extra business cards. Because I only hand out cards when someone asks for one, I rarely run out of business cards. When it does happen, though, I can always pull out the ones I keep stashed in my wallet for just such an occasion. This also helps when I am someplace where I didn’t expect to need cards.
  4. Pen. If you find you are having a hard time remembering where you met people, jotting down a quick note on the back of their card can help. Of course, if you are going to do it in front of them, it’s always polite to ask permission. I have yet to run into someone who minds, but it’s always nice to show that little extra respect.
  5. Notebook. You never know when you are going to want to take more notes than will fit on the back of their business card. Also, networking events often include a presentation which may have an idea or two that you want to record.
  6. Calendar. If you can plan your next meeting with someone before you even leave their presence, that saves you one more step in the networking process. Many people carry their schedule with them these days, so it makes it pretty easy to set up that coffee or lunch without having to make that extra call when you get home from the office.
  7. Nametag. If you have a permanent nametag that you like to wear, be sure that you get it on the pile, too. Also, some groups actually require you to use a specific badge, especially if you are helping to host the event. Don’t be that guy who forgot his.
  8. Mental materials. Be sure that you’ve prepped for the event. Look up the speaker. If you have to present something, even if it’s only a ten-word introduction, you’re better off preparing it before you actually get to the event. Oh, and don’t forget to set those goals!
Creating an actual physical toolkit for attending networking events can make it a lot easier to feel comfortable when you eventually walk through the door. On top of that, you’ll save time in the long run since you won’t have to scramble around at the last minute trying to get everything together. Take a few minutes now to make sure you are more effective networker later.
Photo credit: Flickr user skistz