Networking is more than just collecting business cards. It’s about making meaningful connections with a variety of different people that can potentially lead to future opportunities. Here are 10 tips to help you get the most of professional networking events in Houston, TX.

Get out of the office and to an event – To be a member of the local Houston business community you need to get out of the office and to a networking event. That’s the best way to start making local connection with minimal cost. Social Networking sites like LinkedIn, Eventbrite, and MeetUp can help you find local event.

Practice how to introduce yourself – Your pitch may be your most important tool at a networking event. You can instantly tell when someone has no idea how to introduce themselves. They just ramble on and on and on. Don’t do that. Just keep it simple. Greet, say your name, what you do and why you are attending this event. Then ask about them. It should sound like this: “Hi! I’m Greg. I’m a professional digital marketer. I’m here tonight to meet other marketing professionals. How about you?”

Be careful with what you say and how you say it – Some people share way too much info at a networking event. Before they realize it, they either shared trade secrets with a competitor or they just spoke ill of someone’s close friend. Think before you speak at a networking event.

Keep your intentions in mind – You don’t attend professional networking events for the fun of it. You go with a goal in mind. You’re going to find yourself in a number of conversations that may or may not help your intentions. You’re going to meet people that will ask for your help, often expecting it for free. You have to recognize when this happens and learn to decline these requests.

Have courage – For some, middle school dances were awkward. But eventually you found your groove, right? That same feeling will return for your first couple networking events. Don’t stay on the perimeter of the event. Get in there and introduce yourself. Courage and confidence are key to being successful at a networking event.

Don’t be a “Me Monster” – This comes from a Brian Regan skit where he talks about his experience at a dinner party where he met someone that couldn’t stop talking about themselves or how much better of a story they had to tell. For example, he would start with this story about how he had two wisdom teeth pulled. The “Me Monster” would come back with is four wisdom tooth story. Don’t be that person. No one likes a “Me Monster.”

Quality over quantity – If there’s anything we have learned from social networking platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, it’s having quality connections is better than having a lot of connection. That being said, you don’t need to attend every networking event, you don’t need to get everyone’s business cards, and you don’t need to follow up with everyone. Make the most of your quality connections. If you go for quantity you’ll end up drowning yourself in business cards and spammy updates on social media.

Pay it forward – If you get the chance to help someone that you feel compelled to help, try to not expect something in return. Rather, ask that connection to help the next person in whatever way they can. Taking this approach will not only make you feel better as a person, others will feel compelled by your example. That makes for good karma.

Excuse yourself gracefully – You’ll find yourself in conversations that are simply going no where. Don’t spend your time in conversations that don’t help you with your intent. Find a way to excuse yourself with grace. You may have to simply excuse yourself to use the restroom or refill a drink. Whatever way you choose, you’re going to need to say something that concludes the conversation so you can move on. Don’t be afraid to do this. It happens all the time at networking events.

Be authentic – Not only do you have to be true to yourself, you must be real to those at a networking event. Don’t claim to have experience you don’t have. When you’re asked a question you don’t know the answer to, let them know you will follow up. Be real and be professional.

Professional networking isn’t difficult. At first it may seem that professional networking isn’t for everyone. But once you make a few new professional connections and they start referring business your way, you’ll begin to understand that this is an inexpensive yet effective way to grow your business.

Make sure that your business cards have your website URL on them so when your new connections visit your website they can learn more about what you do. If your afraid to have people visit your website then you need to call us so we can redesign it and give them the experience they deserve. Give us a call at 281-764-9070 or use our Contact Form to have one of our consultants discuss your website and digital marketing needs.