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You’re sitting with a co-worker at a company event when you spot an older gentleman at the table next to you. You met him at the sports professionals networking event a few months ago.

“Oh, don’t you know Jeremy?” you ask your co-worker. She turns around to see where you point.

“That’s not Jeremy,” she says.

He looks up from his paper. “I’m not Jeremy,” he says, sounding annoyed.

These kinds of mix-ups can be embarrassing, especially if you insult people in your network. When you’re attending social gatherings and networking events, you need to prepare and make the most out of them. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on opportunities to build relationships with people, which is especially detrimental when you’re looking for sports jobs.

Learning the ins and outs of professional networking is essential to helping you find the sports jobs you want and to building long-lasting, meaningful relationships. Join professional networking groups and register for upcoming events to start building the career you want.

Here is your simple, step-by-step guide on preparing for your first networking event:

1. Research Contacts

Before you attend networking events, do some research. Most events provide a list of attendees. If not, you can reach out to people through your professional organization or through LinkedIn to see who is attending.

Make a list of who you want to talk to, but keep it manageable. You don’t need to meet everyone. Find contacts relevant to your career plan. If you’re looking for sports jobs in sports analytics, then find professionals who have experience in that field ahead of time, and become familiar with their work in the industry.  

2. Set a Goal

When you know who you want to talk to, assign yourself a specific goal. For example, collect six business cards or add six new contacts to your phone.

This way, you aren’t scrambling around, trying to do too much, and spreading yourself too thin. By bouncing around and shaking everyone’s hands, you aren’t making an impactful connection with anybody, and you are not getting value out of the event.  

When you connect with your target contacts, consider that a success.

3. Walk the Walk

Your appearance matters. You want to feel confident and comfortable. If you wear a suit to a casual meetup or group event and everyone else is in jeans, you will stick out (not in a good way).

Consider the colors you want to wear. Buy Tshirts Online’s 2015 survey found that 56 percent of the 1000 respondents agreed that black exudes the most confidence, with red and blue following close behind.

Bottom line: you want to dress appropriately for the occasion, understand the tone and degree of formality, and choose an outfit you feel comfortable and confident in. Confidence is your best tool for when you approach people you don’t know, which can be nerve racking.

4. Know Your Pitch

Write down the points you want to share with your contacts. You should develop an elevator speech, but you don’t want to come off as salesy. Stay authentic and conversational.

Don’t just recite a script. Write down what you want your contacts to know about you and speak confidently. For example, you can describe some of your experiences you have in previous sports jobs and how you overcame challenges and solved problems.

5. Show Interest

One of the worst things you can do is show indifference. If you don’t make eye contact and aren’t responsive to what people say, they will assume you are not interested in connecting with them.

Show your passion for the industry by attentively listening to colleagues. Demonstrate your interest through positive body language, like good posture, eye contact, and smiling. Also, acknowledge them when they make interesting points and follow up with questions or comments.

6. Organize Your Contacts

After the event, organize your business cards and contacts, then schedule follow-ups. Take notes after your interactions to capture pertinent information. You want to jog their memory when you follow up, so note things you relate on.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t make the most out of networking opportunities. A 2015 survey conducted by the University of Phoenix School of Business found that 53 percent of adults are either hesitant to network or avoid it altogether, and 27 percent of them think they have lost job opportunities as a result.

If you’re ready to find sports jobs that can advance your career, you need to get out there and shake hands. Networking events are your best resource for making friends, learning more about the industry, and potentially earning professional references or referrals.

How do you prepare for networking events?

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