I started writing a blog post titled “Networking Tips for a 20-Something Entrepreneur” and I realized that the first step in successfully attending an event, seminar, or business meeting, is being prepared. I also decided that being prepared should have entirely it's own post because of the extensive planning that goes into it. I have been trying my best to attend everything I’m invited to (being a “yes” man) because I've realized that every time you walk out of your house you are presented with the opportunity to network with new people. Which brought me to the question, “what do I bring to meetings or networking events”? In other words, what’s in my purse? So without further ado, I will tell you my top 10 most essential items to have on hand when attending an event and why.
1. Business Cards – This is a cardinal rule; have them on you at all times, about 50 (more or less depending on the type of event you are attending). This shouldn't take up much room in your purse or briefcase. The reason this is my number one and always will be is because you never want to find yourself during a conversation when the exchange of information comes up and be left empty-handed. The “I’ll just write my phone number and email on this wet paper napkin” trick doesn't go over so well in a professional setting.
2. Two Good Pens – They don’t have to be fancy or expensive pens but just make sure that you have two working pens. Preferably black or blue ink.
3. Notepad – What would two good pens serve without a notepad to write down your notes? You need one nice white notepad (especially if you’re going to a business meeting or seminar). Skip this step if you insist on carrying a laptop and taking notes on that (call ahead to make sure there are power plugs and that the venue/person leading the meeting allows laptops - tip: most places and people do).
4. Breath Mints – Trust me on this one: no one wants to have a long conversation when your breath smells of stale coffee and bad decisions. Take one (or two) discreet breath mints after every coffee break to ensure that you’re not the one that everyone is avoiding or backing away from.
5. Advil – I don’t know about you folks but I get massive headaches during a long meeting or event. This is usually due to lack of food, water, or not enough coffee. There will always be people looking for Advil at meetings, always; be the one who has a mini bottle in her purse and couldn't be happier to share. This also works as a lead into a conversation with someone you haven't met yet.
6. Lara Bar – Or other light, quiet, on-the-go snack. I carry these to avoid the massive headache mentioned in number 5 and because, like other people, I get super cranky and distracted when I’m hungry. Lara Bars are compact, cheap, quiet, quick, and filling. Not to mention that they’re not going to give you terrible breath or make you bloat. No one wants to be “that guy” in a meeting eating a big, loud bag of Doritos while licking their fingers and wiping it on chairs. It’s just rude so we should all try and forego that.
7. Cash – Twenty dollars broken up into five dollar bills should suffice. Most people only carry credit/debit cards and I am so guilty of this it’s ridiculous. However, I would rather make a quick stop to take out cash on my way over than be embarrassed by lack of planning. It is not fun to be splitting a tab or trying to leave a tip and only having a credit card on you, resulting in letting someone else cover your portion. This is bad manners and it is worth your time to stop at an ATM on your way over to avoid this awkwardness all together.
8. B12 – This is a new thing of mine that I discovered by default when I was restricted from any caffeinated coffee, tea, etc. (among other things) for about a month when going through some health scares. B12 is a great alternative to coffee and even though I can now have caffeine again I still carry a bottle on me at all times. Take one or two when the coffee supply runs out, you’re in the middle of a meeting/discussion, or when you just can’t choke down that third black coffee of yours that’s gone cold by now.
9. Tide to go – I’m not sure if it’s just me or the fact that I drink coffee while I drive like a maniac in the city, but I spill coffee on myself all.the.time. This usually isn't problematic due to my all black wardrobe and my dark-as-my-soul black coffee. However, if you catch me on the rare day that I do wear, god forbid, color to a meeting or event, you also won’t find me without tide-to-go in my purse. I swear that little tube is magical and has saved my butt so many times. Bottom line: you’ll most likely be drinking coffee, walking/driving, and you do not (repeat: do not) want a big stain on your nice white suit when attempting to look professional.
10. Lipstick – I am a lipstick fanatic and I truly think my face looks tired and washed out without it, so I always have a tube on me whether it be nude (best choice for a meeting) or a deep red. Lipstick that looks like you put it on two days ago, the one that’s smeared, cracking, and barely there? ...You’re gonna want to touch that up. Lipstick doesn't take up a ton of space in your purse so just bring it and touch your lips up between coffee breaks and every few hours so that you can continue to look as chic as you certainly are.
Below I've listed 3 quick articles emphasizing why networking at a young age is essential in today’s market:
"I concluded that networking was, in effect: The process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence or serve the community."
“'Use any event or situation you’re in as a networking opportunity, even if it doesn't seem like it,' she says. 'By simply reaching out and talking to people wherever you are, you can learn,' such as the time she met someone at a grocery store checkout line and heard about a recipe that’s become a family favorite. 'Don’t dismiss people out of hand by title, company, looks, etc., because you just never know what pearls of wisdom and great opportunities for innovation and creation may arise by talking to them.'"
“By now you know that networking gives you access to the best opportunities life has to offer. This is especially true when it comes to job searching and business building. From 2008 to 2012, over 40% of job seekers landed a job through networking, while fewer than 15% landed a job through a recruiter, reports Right Management. If you don’t already know someone who works at a company in today’s marketplace, it’s extremely hard to break through.”
Did I forget anything on this list? What do you find that you need when attending a business meeting or important event?
Be sure to check out our “Part 2: Networking Tips for a 20-Something Entrepreneur” coming soon!
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