Join Our Community

How to Get the Most Out of Networking

business of interior design career advice emerging professionals generate leads for design business Aug 20, 2021
learn how to own the room, look confident and make profitable connections

Networking events are designed to be a game, and it truly is all about how you play it.

Once you understand how to win the game, your power is limitless. Your pre-planned strategy is everything and ultimately decides success here. What is worse than spending several weeks getting your mind and portfolio organized, get through ‘morning of the show jitters,’ schedule time off of work/school just to get into the event and fall flat on your face? Preparation is key and will be what sets you apart from everyone else in the room.

Learn how to own the room, look confident and make profitable connections.

You are already carrying the answers to every question any company asks, so take a deep breath and read on about five ways to get the most out of any networking event.

1) Plan ahead and set strong intentions before going.

If you have particular people or booths you want to engage with, make a plan with a map of the event. Do not rush your attendance. Anything worth doing takes time. To be mentally, physically, and professionally ready for this, plan to attend six weeks to two months in advance. Unless you are just using the first couple of events as trial runs to warm yourself up - mock networking events will help relax you for the real deal. 

 2) Know the right things to say about your company.

This will come entirely from being confident in your brand. Before going to any event, fully establish your brand, order of operations, and a marketing plan. The more work put in ahead of time, the more you have to use in conversation.

Check out: "How (& Why) Emerging Design Professionals Can Create a Personal Brand"

3) Network as if you are new to town, setting out to meet new friends.

Approach the connection bearing a genuinely positive attitude, eager to learn more about that person. Open your conversations lightheartedly by pulling from something directly correlated to the individual you speak with, not just their company. Go with the flow of the conversation, asking unique questions but never forcing words in or filling in space with buffers.

Pay meticulous attention to everything and everyone around you. Practicing this will allow you to instantly own the room, being aware of your surrounding environment. It will also make it easier to speak with new people in an educated manner. Take notes on more than just the professional matters at hand.

4) Before moving onto a different company, be sure to write down something about the individual you were speaking with.

This will not only assist you in remembering the person for future conversations. It will also help in creating a more tailored follow-up email or letter. People will remember you better if you take the time to engage with them professionally and personally. Let’s face it, we are all humans with a family of some capacity, wild emotions we have little control over, and pretty in-depth needs each day. Yes, the overall purpose of any networking event is to create business connections for monetary gains. Still, we all virtually have in common across any event; we all have a why.

Maybe you already know why you are working towards these goals, but this is a critical time to unveil all the reasons you continue to strive for greatness in this industry. Once discovered, your soul will have a fire burning so hot, no company will be able to distract themselves from you.

5) Follow up with a genuine response to individuals you connected with.

Do not wait too long following the event to send out a thank you or unique response about matters discussed. Be as personal as you can, allowing enough space for their thoughts. Do not crowd out the email with fluff about their company. They already know what their company is about. The game is not to see who can remember more information about the other’s business.

Be direct and to the point, still maintaining a selfless persona yearning to make an impact on that prospective company.

Fully Prepare Yourself For Any Networking Event Following This Comprehensive Schedule

2 Months Before Event:

Research the most appealing and time-worthy networking events in your area. Try not to travel further than an hour unless you are willing to relocate or drive that distance for client acquisition. Pay particular attention to any past year’s performance, vendors, and reviews. Time is money, so you will want to make sure you use it in the most efficient way possible.

Decide to attend two or three events evenly spaced out to allow for proper groundwork. Take this time to craft out all the fine details of your brand and marketing plans. Order business cards, resumes, and any printed materials to share with new connections. It’s unnecessary to have but definitely will put you above the curve is a portfolio or blogging website.

The more you can provide naturally on you and your brand, the greater advantage you have. When companies are interested in you, they do not solely care about your education or every place you have worked in the past. They are actually looking at your integrity and how well you will fit into their company through that. Are you who you say you are?

Living in the digital age we are residing in, it is more important than ever to ensure your online presence is squeaky clean. If you have no desire to showcase your portfolio digitally, at the bare minimum, guarantee all sources and images are positive before handing out your contact information. Almost every employer/client uses the media to make the final or beginning decision on working with you. Use that as an opportunity to shine beautifully and help anyone curious about you understand entirely. 

1 Month Before Event:

RSVP to save your spot at the event. Sometimes they are entirely sold out, which would be frustrating after many weeks of getting yourself mentally, physically, and professionally ready.

3 Weeks Before Event:

Head to the mall or tailor! You will want to look, feel and smell your absolute best.

How you perform relies heavily on how confident you are on the inside and outside. You could undoubtedly use garments used for other functions, but when was the last time you walked out of a store carrying a bag with a sleek, new outfit? How did you feel walking out of that store? Probably like a diamond eager to have the perfect occasion to strut your stuff.

Ladies, the perfect look lies in simplicity, flattering colors, and modesty. Gentlemen, keep your style smooth and refined, also wearing dark colors that do not distract the viewer from the conversation.

Use your brand as a guide on how to dress for the part. Create an easily transitional outfit if there is inclement weather. Your interior and exterior wardrobe should be polished entirely. Give yourself a few weeks before the event to make alterations or get your new attire dry cleaned.

The Week Of The Event:

Keep health as the top priority for this week. Limit alcohol, eat a healthy variety of foods, get adequate movement, and focus on rest. The worst first impression would be of you yawning and having deep-set under-eye bags.

Your brain is the engine of this whole operation. Have you ever had a car that runs non-stop with no breaks and was able to perform at max capacity? Absolutely not. That car would overheat and burn up after two to three days or less.

Treat your body and mind the same way. 

“Tired minds don’t plan well. Sleep first, plan later.” Walter Reisch

There should be a list of vendors and an event map online at this point. Download them and do some research on companies of interest. Often, there are names of who the point of contact is going. Familiarize yourself with those people to address them by name. Print out a map of vendors and plan your course of action.

The Day Of The Event:

Do your regular routine with an hour or two to spare. This should be one of the most relaxing days of your week. If the event happens to start at eleven, and it usually takes about two hours from the alarm going off to when you leave, plan for four on this day. This will help tremendously to tie everything together before you present your brand.

After rising, allow for extra time to take a steaming hot or ice-cold shower. Then, wake up your cells and give the body a clean refresh.

Sit and drink a cup of coffee or tea as you mentally ease into the day. Set your intentions here. Clear your mind of anything troublesome or outside the realm of your passion.

This is YOUR time. Write down your brand values and which booths you will definitely be stopping at over a hearty breakfast. These quiet moments alone will be what sets the presence for the day.

Every aspect of your brand starts in the mind; balance it before moving into any professional character.

After assuring your mind is cool, calm, and collected, look yourself in the mirror and realize just how INCREDIBLE, DEDICATED AND HARDWORKING you really are. You are more than ready for this.

Put on your carefully selected outfit and jewelry/accessories. Feel this moment of clarity. The day is ripe for building solid relationships and acquiring many new leads.

Before heading out to the event, sit for a few minutes to gather your thoughts and double-check to make sure you have all that you need.

The Time Is Now.

You now have all the tools to excel at your upcoming networking events. It is imperative to be prepared in all three emotional categories before attending.

The number one priority is: to relax and be yourself. Regardless of how many years working in the interior design industry, if your brand is presented lacking confidence and a human touch, the clientele will not come.

You are full of life, fiery dreams, and color. Show the world what you are really made of without hesitation.

Sign Up for Our Weekly Newsletter

Get helpful career, business, and design tips right in your inbox each week.

At GAI, we are committed to building a stronger design community by reimagining education, training, and support for interior designers. Through our various software training options, educational articles covering everything from leadership to marketing, and soon Continuing educational courses, we are committed to helping you. Join our newsletter to get the latest education and training updates.

Sign Me Up!