There’s an age-old adage that says, “It’s not the grades you make; it’s the hands you shake.” While that might not be the absolute truth, nor should it detract from the importance of education and work experience, it speaks volumes about the significance of networking events.
Whether you’re a newcomer eager to enter the scene or a seasoned professional looking to expand your opportunities, networking is one of the best ways to do that.
In this article, we’ll go through everything, from what networking events are and their importance to concrete examples and advice on how to make the most out of them. Let’s dive right in!
Networking events are in-person and online meetups where the goal is professional growth through building interpersonal connections.
There are many different types of networking events tailored to different audiences.
Some networking events include career fairs, which are good for job seekers, roundtable discussions aimed at industry professionals, and alumni associations, to name a few.
To choose the right networking event for you, you should set your career goals, examine attendees, and look for events that match your personality.
Some of the best ways to find networking events include asking around your network, doing research, and checking your city’s calendar.
What Are Networking Events & What’s Their Importance?
Networking events are various in-person and online gatherings and meetings designed to help professionals create contacts, exchange ideas, and cultivate business relationships. These events come in many shapes and forms. There are formal conferences and business seminars, informal get-togethers, casual happy hour meetups, online events, and more.
By definition, networking is meant to help individuals and organizations broaden their professional circles. Simply put, people interact with each other in various ways with the goal of advancing their careers and businesses.
There are many different ways to participate in networking events. For starters, individuals can simply engage in casual or professional conversations with their peers. More experienced professionals can participate in panel discussions, attend workshops, hold speeches, give presentations, and more.
The importance of these events lies in their ability to open doors to knowledge and opportunities. On the one hand, individuals can attend meetups and gatherings to brush up on their knowledge, improve their hard and soft skills, or get updated on the latest trends and practices in their field.
On the other hand, there are those who go to networking events looking for new jobs, clients, mentors, and partners. Whether you’re looking for work, a startup co-founder, or a new employee, a networking event is one of your best bets.
10 Types of Networking Events
There are many types of networking events. The differences stem from the way the events are organized, where they are being held, who’s being invited, and more. Let’s check out some of the most common ones.
#1. Career Fairs
Career fairs are vast and dynamic gatherings where the focus is on employment. These are some of the best networking events for students and entry-level job seekers, as they can meet and interact with various employers in their field.
These networking events will typically have numerous representatives from potential hiring organizations. The representatives will usually look for new talent among the participants and take resumes from interested parties.
Events like these are generally organized and sponsored by universities and trade schools that want to help their students, as well as corporations that are looking for new employees. A notable example includes the National Career Fairs that helped more than 1 million individuals in the past 19 years.
#2. Industry-Related Events
Industry-related events are specific to certain fields and careers. For instance, there are healthcare industry-related events, technology-oriented ones, events in the sphere of finance, and more.
Compared to career fairs, these professional networking events generally cater to more experienced individuals. Their purpose revolves around sharing newfound knowledge and trends, connecting and interacting with peers and industry leaders, finding new clients and business partners, and more.
These events are usually organized by relevant associations and feature speeches and panel discussions in addition to regular networking. One notable example is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is one of the biggest technology-oriented events in the world, with thousands of exhibitors and more than 100k attendees.
#3. Roundtable Discussions
Roundtable discussions can be thought of as smaller and more focused versions of industry-related events. These are moderate gatherings where the emphasis is on a debate regarding specific topics.
That makes roundtable discussions perfect for experts to exchange ideas on the highest levels. The concept of a roundtable is utilized to ensure that everyone has an equal right to participate. This facilitates a meaningful conversation where the focus is on the diversity of opinions.
All of that makes roundtable discussions best suited for industry veterans. They are often used by experts to share advice with each other and to discuss the latest trends and developments. Because of their typically intimate nature, they help build strong connections between participants.
#4. Happy Hour Meetups
Happy hour meetups are informal gatherings. They are usually held in relaxed places, like bars and restaurants. The casual nature of these meetings is perfect for professionals who prefer relaxed networking over formal business interactions.
The term “happy hour” means that participants are welcome to have a few drinks while participating in an event. The main goal is usually to get to know the other participants on a personal level. In that sense, happy hour meetups have team-building characteristics, and the emphasis is on socialization.
Still, while happy hour meetups are great for professionals to unwind, they can also help participants build connections over common interests. For instance, meetups within larger companies foster stronger teamwork and cooperation. On the flip side, a gathering of entrepreneurs can help them connect and find new businesses or clients.
#5. Professional Conferences
Professional conferences usually happen during trade shows at expo centers. They often have an educational nature and include various activities, such as keynote presentations and panel discussions. As a result, participants can earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) while attending these conferences.
Conferences at expo centers usually feature exhibition zones where various businesses can promote their work and services. Eager professionals can use these networking events to learn new technical skills related to their field in addition to connecting with their peers and industry leaders.
One of the most prominent examples of professional conferences is the World Economic Forum. This global organization holds worldwide events on various topics, ranging from climate change to cybersecurity.
Workshops are productivity-oriented networking events where the focus is on developing particular abilities while growing your professional circle. Most workshops are highly specialized and aimed at a specific topic or skill. This makes them perfect for gaining practical experience while networking.
The events at workshops vary from presentations to hands-on activities, like collaborative work on tasks and projects. Their team-building nature makes them perfect for developing interpersonal skills in addition to broadening industry-specific knowledge and prowess.
All of that makes workshops some of the best networking events for young professionals since participation in them usually requires at least basic levels of understanding. That allows industry experts, who often lead workshops, to elevate the participants’ knowledge by showing them strategies used at the highest level.
#7. Alumni Associations
Alumni associations bring together former students from the same school, college, or university. The purpose of these events can be anything, from social to professional. Former students and current graduates attend these events to find job and mentoring opportunities and to network with fellow alumni.
The organizers are typically educational institutions that participants went to. They can promote these events through various channels, including their websites, social media pages, and dedicated platforms, like Graduway. These events can also be held online in the form of webinars.
#8. Local Organizations
Local organizations are community-focused networking events. They are usually organized by business associations with strong interests in local operations. That makes them best suited for regional business owners, professionals, job seekers, and entrepreneurs.
They use these events to meet and exchange ideas on the state of affairs in the local business landscape. That way, they can share various insights and information that can be beneficial to everyone, explore coworking and collaborating opportunities, connect job seekers with potential employees, and more.
There are many different types of activities that can happen during these events, ranging from networking brunches to training seminars. Every community can have different types of organizers and events. One notable example is the Rotary Club, which often organizes events on a local scale and incentivizes participants to take action in their community.
Volunteering events attract like-minded people who share many common interests and look to give back to their communities. The goal of these events isn’t so much professional networking as it is about the social aspect of connecting with others. It’s about building meaningful relationships based on shared values.
In addition to their collaborative nature, another characteristic of volunteer events is their relaxed atmosphere. It allows individuals from different backgrounds and professions to interact effortlessly and gain unique opportunities while contributing to good causes.
#10. Personal Contact Networking
Networking with personal contacts involves leveraging existing relationships with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, existing partners, and more. Upcoming entrepreneurs and young professionals, in particular, can gain a lot by spreading awareness about their work and knowledge.
Personal contact networking often doesn’t occur during specific events. Instead, it’s an ongoing process with a spontaneous nature. For instance, this type of networking can include simple family gatherings and friendly get-togethers. On the other hand, individuals can contact their acquaintances and associates to let them know what kind of job they do or look for.
This way, people can use existing contacts to broaden their professional network with little effort. It’s also not uncommon for professionals to use their social media skills and leverage social platforms for networking.
Everything from business-oriented sites like LinkedIn to content-sharing apps like TikTok and Instagram can be used for a hybrid version of personal contacts networking.
How to Choose a Networking Event That’s Right For You
Now that we’ve explored some of the most notable examples of networking events, let’s figure out how you can choose the ones that are best for you.
Set Your Career Goals
Setting your career goals can help you get the most out of networking events. For example, networking events for entrepreneurs don’t offer the same opportunities as university career fairs. That’s why you should determine in advance whether you’re looking for a job, a mentor, a business partner, or something else.
Attending networking events usually takes valuable time and resources, which you don’t want to spend carelessly. By figuring out your goals, you’ll be able to determine which networking events are best for the progress of your career.
Examine Potential Attendees
Finding out who is going to attend a networking event is vital, as these gatherings are all about connecting with other people. Sometimes, an event can ‘look good on paper,’ but the attendee list might not be to your liking. In that case, you can choose to skip it and look for something better.
You should also look at attendees from a practical standpoint. For instance, if you’re seeking mentorship, you should probably look for events that will feature industry leaders. And if you’re looking for a job, you’d want to prioritize those happenings where you’ll find the companies that are hiring.
Look for Events That Match Your Personality
You’ll perform optimally at networking events that suit your personality and preferences. That’s why you should consider the nature and atmosphere of an event to see whether it’ll be to your liking.
For instance, introverts might be inclined to go for smaller and more intimate gatherings or even online networking events. On the other hand, extroverts thrive in large meetups and big crowds where they can interact with as many people as possible.
While stepping out of your comfort zone is a good move for personal and professional growth, you don’t want to overdo it. You’ll likely network much more effectively if you attend events that match your comfort levels.
Where & How to Find Networking Events
Let’s explore some of the best and most effective ways to find networking events that best suit your needs.
Ask Your Network
One of the easiest methods of finding the best networking event is simply asking in your existing circle. You likely share many interests with the people you’re surrounded with, be it friends, colleagues, or employers. As such, you will probably benefit from the networking events that they are interested in.
Furthermore, people who know you also know your goals and aspirations, even if they don’t align with theirs. Because of that, they might be able to recommend some networking events that they’ve heard of or connect you with other people who can help your career.
Do Some Research
Today’s digital landscape makes researching networking events easy and effortless. The vast majority of businesses and event organizers have an online presence, whether it’s through personal websites, dedicated networking platforms, or social media.
Some of the best places to start include places like:
Best Networking Platforms
LinkedIn, which is the go-to social media network for professionals
Facebook, which is the biggest social media platform based on the number of active users
Eventbrite, which is a website that specializes in event management
Meetup, which aims to connect like-minded individuals over common interests, often for informal networking
Keeping track of these platforms, as well as local websites and social media pages, can help you stay informed about all the upcoming events, both local and virtual.
Check Your City Calendar
Many cities publish their calendars online, where they list all notable upcoming events. Some of these events will include networking opportunities, like meetups, gatherings, workshops, conferences, and more.
You’ll often be able to find these calendars on your city’s official website or on the website of your local chamber of commerce. That way, you’ll be able to get a comprehensive view of the happenings in the area and focus on those that align with your goals and interests.
Apart from the city calendar, you can also keep an eye out for various local centers, universities, and similar institutions. They can also publish their own calendars or even post them on bulletin boards.
How to Prepare and Excel at a Networking Event
Here are some pointers and pro tips that will help you get ready for a networking event and succeed at your goals:
Tips to Excel at a Networking Event
Do your research. Take the time to understand the event and its purpose properly. Look into the attendees, panelists, speakers, and more. That will help you prepare questions or tailor your approach.
Optimize your professional materials. If you’re a job seeker, make sure that you bring hard copies of your resume. You can go the extra mile by choosing a premium paper or even having a cover letter if you know in advance where you’ll be applying. If you’re an established professional or an entrepreneur, you should have your business cards ready.
Dress appropriately. Some events have a dress code that you should match. In other cases, you should match the tone of the event and find out whether you’ll need business or casual attire. You’ll feel more confident in appropriate clothing and likely leave a strong first impression.
Practice communication skills. You can prepare conversation starters that’ll help you initiate them quickly and effortlessly. Think of polite and professional ways to introduce yourself, but don’t forget to use your listening skills, as they are just as important.
Stay positive. Networking events should be enjoyable social gatherings. By being positive, you’ll leave a good first impression, build better relationships, reduce the chances of rejection, attract better opportunities, and more.
Follow up. Networking doesn’t stop once the event is over. You can reach out to any connections that you make with personalized messages. That will strengthen the relationships and make them last.
The booming landscape of networking events includes everything from massive conventions with thousands of attendees to private roundtable discussions and happy-hour meetups. Attending these events will give you plenty of opportunities to meet like-minded people, make strong connections, learn and improve, and advance your career.
However, networking is a skill just like any other. Being successful at it requires reflection, research, and preparation. On the flip side, all it takes to start is to show up. So, embrace the journey as a part of the process, and don’t be surprised to see your professional network start to grow at a rapid pace!