Skip to main content

How to Find Networking Events and Make the Most of Them

A comprehensive guide to finding the right events, making connections, and building your professional network

A drawing of two people shaking hands while standing on a pair of giant heads.

If you're like most professional marketers, your business grows through meeting new people. While it’s possible you might meet your next big client at a coffee shop or in the grocery store checkout line, the odds of that are slim, and potentially career-making encounters shouldn’t be left to chance. Luckily, there are opportunities to meet people without relying solely on serendipity: networking events.

We know meet and greets aren’t for everyone, so we’ve put together this comprehensive networking event guide—with input from some impressively accredited Mailchimp partners—to help you better navigate these events and make them work harder for you and your business.

A drawing of a floating head visualizing some data points.

Ways to seek out upcoming events

There's a lot of noise out there about where to be. The reality is that you can’t attend every gathering you hear about. But rather than suffer from FOMO about events as they happen, use these 5 strategies to pinpoint the right events ahead of time.

1. Crowd source

Mailchimp partner Santiago Melluso of DuckDuckChimp recommends putting out feelers in industry Slack channels to see what your peers are up to: “Slack groups provide a direct way to stay in tune with events recommended by our partners.” Mailchimp & Co’s partner Slack workspace is populated with marketers from around the world, so there’s sure to be someone on there with some excellent suggestions for you, no matter where your home base happens to be. Getting access to this Slack workspace is just one of the many benefits of becoming a Mailchimp partner.

2. Stay alert(ed)

To stay abreast of upcoming local events, Santiago also recommends setting up Google Alerts. With these in place, you’ll never be late to the party because you’ll be notified whenever folks announce industry events in your area—or anywhere in the world, if that’s how you set up your alerts.

3. Keep current

Follow industry blogs, using a tool like Feedly, and sign up for newsletters, like Mailchimp & Co’s, to keep tabs on what in-the-know marketers are up to, and which events are being announced.

4. Follow the leaders

Follow industry leaders as well as your peers on social media and pay special attention when they post about events they’re attending. Given its professional focus, LinkedIn is an obvious choice, but many marketing entrepreneurs, including partners Kim Darragon and Lucy Werner, also share what they’re up to—as well as some of their favorite tips and tricks—on Instagram.

5. And don't forget to...

Tap your day-to-day network. Mailchimp partner Emily Ryan of Westfield Creative, says that she asks “other business owners and mentors of mine what they attend each year, and we try to find out what our ideal clients might attend.”

A drawing of a hand holding a paintbrush and checking off some boxes on a checklist.

How to decide which networking events to attend

Once you've identified upcoming events of interest, it's a good idea to prioritize which ones you'd like to attend most. Here are 3 questions to ask yourself when culling your list:

1. Will this event teach me something new and important, or help me improve my existing skill set?

Mailchimp partner Glenn Edley of Spike typically attends networking events that can help him push his professional abilities and interests to the next level: “They have to interest me, be somewhat out of my comfort zone, and look like I will learn valuable lessons from the speakers.”

2. Will this event increase my bottom line?

Remember: you’re not networking for the sake of networking. Ultimately, any good event is one that increases your bottom line. Generally, events offer 2 ways to make this happen: the first is by connecting with new leads, the second is by acquiring new skills and credentials that increase your professional expertise.

3. Does the format of the event appeal to me?

There are many networking event formats, including industry-specific talks, roundtable discussions, happy hour meetups, and trade shows. Each has its pluses and minuses, depending on your personal predilections. Think about those personal preferences as you plan your outings. Santiago, for example, focuses on size and theme as he evaluates where to be. “We feel better in smaller groups. Niche-based events are much better because they tend to prioritize community over business,” he says. “We choose to attend those events that feel closer to our company culture.”

A drawing of some people milling about and socializing at an art gallery.

How to prepare for a networking event

To make the most out of networking, a little legwork goes a long way. Prior to hitting up an event, consider this prep work, which will help you make the most of the experience.

1. Do some homework

When you know about the speakers, sponsors, and hosts, it’s easier to decide on your itinerary. Plus, when you’re meeting new people, you’ll have something to talk about. People are more likely to focus their attention on you if you’re providing useful information.

2. Decide on an itinerary

Some events have multiple speakers and workshops running concurrently. Deciding on your itinerary ahead of time allows you to focus on meeting your peers, rather than scrambling to make decisions on the fly.

3. Broadcast your plans

Events can be a great way to connect with acquaintances, followers and friends. Instead of relying on serendipity, hoping to run into folks you know, publish your itinerary ahead of time and let people know you’re going. “Create some posts letting people know you’ll be there, and ask who’s coming and if they want to meet up,” Emily recommends. “I also like to send a quick email campaign to my list letting them know I'll be there.”

A drawing of a person walking away from the edge of a cliff.

Things to keep in mind at events

While networking sometimes suffers from a bad rep, it doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Keep these 3 tenets in mind when attending an event, and you’ll not only leave with more connections–you might even end up enjoying yourself.

1. Keep calm and carry on

It’s easy to avoid networking awkwardness with the right attitude. Just remember, you’re all attending this event for the same reason: to grow your business and skills. If you find the social element of networking events intimidating, like Santiago does, follow his lead and find a buddy to attend the event with you.

2. Be authentic

Glenn makes an effort to engage people in genuine discussions without a business end in mind. “I like to have good conversations, not just light ones where the goal is to hand out as many cards as possible,” he says. “People remember you better if you took the time to really engage and ask about the thing they like most to talk about—themselves.”

3. Get connected

We know no one has a Rolodex any more, but business cards are still an efficient way to share your contact info (some folks even put QR codes on their cards that lead to relevant landing pages). At events, be prepared to hand out dozens of business cards, and make sure you have a safe place to store the ones you collect.

For more event etiquette tips, check out the Dos and Don’ts of Networking for Agencies and Freelancers.

A drawing of two people in profile with their hair braided together.

How to build lasting relationships with new networking connections

You’ve been to some events, met some new peers, and connected with potential clients. And you feel like you’ve made a great first impression. Now the real work starts, because to truly make the most out of these events, you have to cultivate these relationships. Here’s how to make sure you’re following through:

1. Add them on social

After the event—or even during it—remind people who you are by adding them to your social networks. Emily is a fan of connecting on multiple channels, not just the ones widely viewed as “professional networks”. For example, she finds Facebook and Instagram are great platforms to grow connections casually.

2. Reach out

When you follow up with new connections, make sure you provide them with some context. Sometimes it’s helpful to jog their memory. “I will connect with them on LinkedIn by sending them a message that reminds them of where we met,” says Glenn. “I make sure I’ve made enough notes about the people I’ve met during and after the event, so that I’ve retained their information and can relate it back to myself and them."

3. Connect the dots

Although everyone is looking to build their business, networking events can offer much more than that. The relationships you build can be important for both personal and professional growth. Santiago has started a practice of connecting people he’s connected with. “We’re investing a lot of time in creating multidisciplinary work groups or Zoom calls where we can catch up and cross-connect the people we know from different sources,” he says. “It’s always fun, and it creates unexpected synergies.”

While some like it better than others, there’s no question: networking is a necessary part of building your business and your brand. With these helpful tips and tricks in mind, you’ll be sure to make the most of it.

If you’re a freelancer or a member of an agency looking to learn new skills and build your reputation, join Mailchimp & Co.

Not only is our ready-built network of your peers excited to welcome you, membership also gets you access to tools (to help you manage your clients) and resources designed to help you grow your business your way.

Share This Article