5 ways to master networking at your next spouse event

Got business cards?

There is no shortage of get-togethers happening this fall in the military sphere–locally near your installation and nationally around bigger cities, like Washington, D.C. and Dallas. Still, just showing up is not enough. You’re going to have to put some effort into your role as an attendee, be the proactive-engaged-prepared-type of attendee. If not, those valuable resources–of time and money–that you invested into being there, will be wasted.

We’ve put together a list of five tips that will help you successfully navigate your way through any event. First up? Make Google your friend.

1. Research the venue and attendees

In order to be appropriately prepared for the event, develop a situational awareness of the venue. Is it casual or formal? Who will be present in terms of speakers? Does the agenda include a Q&A? What type of special guests are there?

Typically, the host’s website houses biographies on presenters along with a rundown of what to expect. Do your homework.

2. Anticipate possibilities

When you register for a conference, there are clear reasons why you felt compelled to be there. Now is the time to think bigger. Bolder. What that means is narrow down what you hope to leave there with. Are you attending to meet new people, grow your business, or find a job? Do you hope to share information about the organization you volunteer for? Is there something you want to learn more about? Your answer may be all of the above or something else, but by defining your goals ahead of time, you are more likely to navigate the venue in a productive way. Forecast the best-case scenario of your day.

3. Perfect your pitch

First impressions count. In some scenarios, you will have just seconds to share who you are, what you do, and your “ask” This is especially important if you are attending a hiring fair with potential employers or building a relationship for professional reasons. Before attending the event, practice what you will say and how you will say it. . . out loud. If you are a business owner, for instance, and you want to pitch your business to a potential sponsor or customer, decide ahead of time how you can maximize that short window of opportunity for an elevator pitch.

4. Make connections that count

Warning: If you are an introvert, you will need to leave your comfort zone in this setting. One of the benefits of attending networking-type events is that you have access to people who align with your interests, personally and/or professionally. However, these connections can only happen if you put yourself out there. Make an effort to engage, and ask for contact information when it is clear that there is a benefit to future communication.

5. Have an after-action plan

The energy that exists within a conference room typically dissipates when people go back to their daily lives. By crafting a plan ahead of time, you are more likely to follow through on those actionable items. For example, within the first week after the event send follow-up emails to anyone who gave you a business card.

Here’s a list of upcoming military-affiliated events for any interest:

MilSpouseFEST (Sept. 27, Ft. Campbell, KY): Military OneClick delivers a one-of-a-kind experience for spouses at any stage of their military life. These events are free and promise activities with a purpose.

MilSpoCON (Oct. 5-6, Wilmington, NC): Calling all spouse entrepreneurs! This annual conference brings together business owners from all industries.

AUSA (Oct. 9-11, Washington, DC): The annual conference brings together Army leadership, interactive exhibitions, and family forums. It is free and has resources for all service affiliations.

InGear Career’s AMPLIFY (Oct.. 12-13, Austin, TX): This event is designed for military spouses on the job hunt. From resumes to professional photos, LinkedIn profiles to salary negotiations, attendees have access to a career intensive agenda built with the military-affiliated job seeker in mind.

National Military Spouse Summit (Oct. 13-14, Springfield, VA): This event is for military spouses interested in federal employment, entrepreneurship, professional careers, and volunteering.

Military Influencers Conference (Oct. 23-24, Dallas, TX): This conference is for digital influencers who share a commonality of the military and business. Workshops include strategies for growing a business and developing a brand.

By Bianca M. Strzalkowski