I don’t know about you, but when I go to a networking event, I think to myself, “this BETTER be worth it, because I could be (fill in the blank) instead.”

I could be (hanging out with the family) OR (staying in the office getting all my “real” work done) OR (going to the gym) OR (not sitting in traffic to get there just to meet a bunch of random people)… If you too feel like this sometimes, I wanted to share a few tips I’ve learned over the past few years to up-my-networking game and make networking worth my time both BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER the event.

1. Be discerning about which events you attend. You can’t be everywhere at once, so you need to have a clear objective for saying yes. If there is no clear reason, you may want to hold off and research upcoming events that give you a bigger bang for your buck.

2. Plan ahead of time who you want to meet and what objectives you’d like to accomplish there. Are there key customers, partners, or competitors you want to check out?

3. Let people know on social media where you’re going to be. LinkedIn is great for this! Tell them you’ll be attending and ask your network who else will be there? If you have a booth at a trade show, let them know which booth you’ll be at, invite people to stop by, and let them know what they can expect to see.

4. Target the people you want to talk to first, so the whole event doesn’t just go by without getting the chance to talk to the people you really wanted to meet with.

5. When you’re meeting new people, make sure you have high energy and you’re not boring. It’s awful talking to people who don’t seem to want to be there, or who have nothing interesting to say. The best way to handle this is to ask people questions about themselves. “So what brought you to the event today? Where are you from?” From there, you can figure out ways to connect and find things in common. Just DO NOT be that person who is totally pushing their agenda in an obvious way!

6. Take pictures during the event and post them on LinkedIn. Write a short post on your key takeaways from the event. Tag the people you met that you want to stay in touch with. For Twitter you can do the same thing. You can tweet the speaker or presenter. Also you can tweet the event host.

7. Follow up with a note on LinkedIn or email with the people you met and offer to meet in person if it makes sense.

And Voila! You have now made the most out of your networking event. Sounds easy enough, right? I challenge you to do the same for your upcoming events and hope this strategy works for you as well.