Networking events can be daunting for many professionals, but they are also essential for building connections and advancing our careers. In order to navigate these events like a pro, it’s important to be prepared and have a plan in place. To help you make the most out of your networking opportunities, here are 10 expert-backed tips to help you navigate networking events with confidence and success.

1. Set clear goals: Before attending a networking event, it’s important to set clear and specific goals for what you hope to achieve. Whether it’s making a certain number of new connections, finding a mentor, or learning about job opportunities, having a clear focus will help you stay on track and make the most of your time at the event.

2. Do your research: Take the time to research the event and the attendees beforehand. This will allow you to identify key people you want to connect with and make strategic decisions about how to spend your time at the event.

3. Prepare an elevator pitch: An elevator pitch is a brief, compelling introduction that summarizes who you are and what you do. Having a well-crafted elevator pitch will help you make a strong first impression and make it easy for others to understand who you are and what you have to offer.

4. Listen actively: When networking, it’s important to be a good listener. Ask open-ended questions and show genuine interest in the person you are speaking with. This will not only help you to build rapport and establish a connection, but will also make it easier to identify potential opportunities for collaboration or partnership.

5. Be approachable: Approachability is key when it comes to networking. Smile, make eye contact, and maintain an open and inviting body language. This will make it easier for others to approach you and strike up a conversation.

6. Follow up: After the event, be sure to follow up with the people you connected with. Send a personalized email or LinkedIn message to express your gratitude for the conversation and to reiterate your interest in staying in touch. This will help to solidify the connections you made and keep the lines of communication open for future opportunities.

7. Give before you get: Networking is a two-way street, and it’s important to offer value to the people you are connecting with. Whether it’s offering advice, making an introduction, or sharing knowledge, being generous with your time and resources will help to build trust and establish meaningful relationships.

8. Dress the part: Dressing professionally and appropriately for the event will help you make a strong and positive impression. When in doubt, it’s always better to overdress than underdress.

9. Use social media to your advantage: In today’s digital age, social media is an important tool for networking. Use platforms like LinkedIn to connect with the people you meet at events and to stay up-to-date on industry news and opportunities.

10. Practice, practice, practice: Like any skill, networking takes practice. The more you put yourself out there and engage with others, the more confident and skilled you will become at networking events.

By following these expert-backed tips, you can navigate networking events with confidence and success. Remember to be prepared, be proactive, and be genuine in your interactions. With the right approach, networking events can be valuable opportunities to build your professional network and advance your career.