Choosing a good networking eventWhether you’re an independent freelancer, a business owner or a remote worker, professional networking is a critical piece of your career advancement. So is remaining productive, which means you’ll need to focus your time and energy on good ones. So how do you choose good networking events?

Showing up and hoping for the best is frustrating and can ultimately waste a lot of time, but it can be difficult to determine if an event will be high quality, particularly when organizers are trying to boost attendance. The solution? Develop a screening process that helps identify high-quality networking events.

Each event should have at least one of these reasons to be considered when you work to choose good networking events:

  • Valid educational goals: Whether it’s a speaker that interests you, or a lunch and learn about your industry, any event from which you walk away with additional knowledge is valuable. Give a keen eye to the speaker, the topic an the organization holding the event, though: You’ll want to stick to events that engage you as a professional, on your level.
  • Your customers will be there: Creating a network of professionals in your field is a great way to stay current with advancements, but it’s no place to look for new clients. Appearing at an event that does the work of attracting your target demographic is a great way to build a client base.
  • Exclusive: If someone is creating a guest list and actively inviting members of a community (rather than allowing it to be an event open to the public) it’s typically a signal that its attendees will be high-quality members of your professional sphere.
  • Paid attendance: Similarly, if the event requires a registration fee or other up-front cost to attend, it’s probably a good bet that others have traditionally found it not just worth their time, but also worth their money,
  • Intimate: Huge industry-wide events can be fun and educational, but they’re often less than ideal places to forge new relationships. While the magic number of attendees varies by the type of event, once more than 75 people show up, it can be difficult to mingle in any meaningful way.
  • Self-Branding: Consider the intangibles of attending an event, particularly how it’ll bolster (or diminish) your personal brand. Sure, you’re not likely to meet new clients at a fund-raiser for a local children’s charity, but many professionals see the value in building a connection to their communities.

There’s no magic formula to help you choose good networking events, but the more you participate, the more you’ll get a feel for which ones are likely to help your professional aims.
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