DC + ART is only a few short hours away, and is going to be a SOLD OUT event with arts managers, leaders, and lovers from all over the DMV and even the South and NYC. This event will not only be a time to support a great cause and get a head start on holiday shopping, but will also be the perfect opportunity to network with other arts professionals.

Melissa Potter Forde, Director of Communications and Marketing at Boys and Girl Harbor and Founder of Think Big! Think You!, is a personal branding and networking expert who works to help individuals and organizations connect the dots to the career of their dreams. EALS asked her for some of her best tips and tricks for networking at social events, and here’s her guest blog on how to network like a pro.

Networking at social events can be intimidating. In our day-to-day, how often do we walk up to strangers and tell them all about us and what we do?

Let’s strip the word networking from the scenario. Let’s imagine ourselves at a bar full of strangers. The lights may be a bit dim, the music just right, and you’re putting the drag of the day behind you.

At the end of the day, what do you look forward to most? Likely, a beverage in hand and a laugh or two with those that you think you may never see again. What do you do? Let your hair down a bit, shine a little brighter, show off your best self!

Put on your “party hat” persona. Treat strangers as friends. Relax a bit and challenge yourself to walk up to a stranger standing alone. You’ll now become a power duo as others tend to scan the room to see what groups are congregating that they should be sure to know too!

Be prepared with a signature business card. Let your business card speak to your style. It’s a great conversation starter and will make it more likely to be kept by the recipient.

Lastly, follow up, follow up, follow up!

What’s a night of great connecting worth without following up within 3 days with those you’ve met? Take a minute to review the business cards you’ve gathered. Check out the LinkedIn and social media pages of your new associates. Find something unique about them not directly related to what they do for a living. Use that as an opener ie: “Hey Katie, it was awesome to meet you at the Arts Alliance Foundation event. Like you, I’m a huge fan of the Baltimore Ravens. Would love to chat with you about your work with the American Heart Association. Let me know a great time to touch base over lunch at Smith’s, the ‘Home of the Ravens!'”

A few authentic relationships will always outdo a portfolio of business cards never used.

Melissa-Potter-FordeMelissa Potter Forde is a connector, communications strategist, career and life coach, consultant, speaker, and passionate philanthropist. Her company Think Big! Think You! helps professionals, small business owners, media mavens, and entrepreneurs provides personal branding and relationship management services to clients who desire to reach their goals, realize their dreams and achieve new levels of success. To learn more about how she can help you or your organization, visit www.thinkbigthinkyou.com.