Yesterday we talked about what we should do in the days and hours leading up to a networking event. The preparations we set in motion were designed to give us an advantage when we got to the event and to get some networking in even before the official start of the festivities. Now the clock has struck noon (or 11:30 or whenever things were supposed to actually get started). How should we best spend our time in order to get the most for the investment of our time and money?

From event start to twenty minutes in. Network. OK, this shouldn’t be too surprising. In this case, though, network with the idea of completing whatever goals you might have. Optimally, you should complete the goal by twenty minutes in. Longer than that and you may have chosen a goal which is too difficult to accomplish during this event. Be careful to avoid the temptation of the buffet line or the hors d’oeuvres tray. That is a reward for completing your networking goals.

Twenty minutes until thirty minutes in. Continue networking. Finish up your networking goal for the event. Remember that you shouldn’t be monopolizing any one person’s time. It limits both of your networking results. The biggest challenge here will be the distraction caused by the announcement that the buffet is ready. Just remember that when the call goes out, about half the crowd will mosey over to fill their plates. They’ll be there for ten minutes at least waiting in line while you have the opportunity to network with the other people in the room.

From thirty to thirty-five minutes in. Get your lunch. Yes, you should still network, but just take a few minutes to snag what looks good from the buffet table. Then go take your seat which you reserved earlier.

From thirty-five minutes until the start of the formal part of the program. Network with the people at your table. Be aware that this is a slightly less powerful section of networking than the earlier part of the event.  The food tends to draw peoples’ focus away from conversation with others and often attendees will sit with people they already know which makes it harder to break into the conversation.

During the formal part of the event. Listen. Pay attention to what’s going on. Look for good things that happen during the event that speak to you. Make note of these things. Listen to the speaker and come up with some good questions about the topic he’s presenting. Do this so you can follow up with the speaker and event organizers later.

Not surprisingly, we should be spending most of our time networking during the actual event. We should complete our goals quickly and, whenever possible, help others achieve theirs. Most people understand this concept, but fail in the execution, but provided you decided your goal before you even walked in the door, you’ll have a great chance to walk out of the event feeling like it was a success.