Knock, Knock! Know Who is There at Networking Events – Business After Hours (BAH)

Perhaps the one event that has done more to ease people into networking is the business after hours.  A staple of chambers of commerce and associations, the business after hours usually attracts the largest crowds and the most diverse audience.  Knowing what to expect is crucial to success at a business after hours (BAH for short).

The major difference between a BAH and all other networking events is alcohol.  Most BAHs will have at least beer and wine and many will have mixed drinks as well.  This creates a more relaxed atmosphere where people will let their guard down and be more social.  Work is over, the drinks are flowing, and people loosen up quite a bit.  BAHs can be very powerful opportunities.

However BAHs can create the biggest risk as well.  Most BAHs will be held immediately following work.  Intoxication happens more quickly when you drink on an empty stomach.  While it is rare that anyone gets really drunk at BAHs, many will have their judgment impaired by alcohol.  So a word of caution:  Drink with care and beware of those who have been drinking.

Of course there will usually be food available at a BAH.  The trick is to manage food and drink all while standing since most BAHs are held in a cocktail-party atmosphere.  It is equally important not to appear gluttonous by remaining near the buffet for too long.  Since this is a social event, more focus will be put on your social skills.  You must be aware that, like it or not, people do watch and people do talk.  Everything is amplified when you add alcohol to the mix.

Do not be mistaken.  This article is not intended to discourage you from attending BAHs.  Quite the contrary.  BAHs will attract attendees that you cannot reach at any other function.  All the high profile executives will attend as will the busy entrepreneurs and solo practitioners.  The BAH is the one event where you truly can meet most anyone you wish. 

Knowing how to meet people, what to say when you meet them, and how to meet the right people at an event will be critical skills necessary for success when attending BAHs.  Remember that you should focus on others not yourself and that the conversations you hold should be designed to determine if you are meeting someone that you should get to know better.  Be social, meet several people, and then determine the three to five folks that you can help and that can help you.  Talk with them a bit longer and be sure to get their business card to follow up.

Remember these general rules about business after hours events:  Most are powerful opportunities.  The smaller the event the more likely you are to make a great connection.  The more focused you are the more likely you are to meet the right person. Therefore, eat before you arrive, skip the alcohol, and be clear who you are looking for.  By following these rules you will always leave the event with connections that count and a clear head.