People talking at a party (Image: iStock)

Let’s start with a few assumptions. You aren’t cheap. You don’t toss nickels around like manhole covers. You are involved in the community. You attend a few charitable events. Your firm isn’t cheap, either. They buy a table at the museum of hospital gala. You are a good producer. You get invited. That’s a freebee. If this describes you, continue reading.

These events aren’t prospecting events like a networking group meeting. There’s dinner and dancing. It’s loud. The longest conversations you will have are likely at dinner. You are seated between two people. One is likely your spouse. Hopefully they are already a client. That one additional person means your pipeline isn’t full tonight.

12 Ways to Maximize Your Attendance at a Charity Gala

There’s a smart way to approach these events. Consider implementing all 12 of these suggestions.

  1. Let your manager know you are interested. Surprisingly, they might have difficulty filling the table they bought, especially if they waited until the last minute. Let you manager know you’ve built social prospecting into your business. You would like to attend if the opportunity presents itself.
  2. Study the invitation and the organization. Who are the big names you would like to meet? What do you know about them? Check them out on LinkedIn. Do an internet search. Find news on their company. At the event, make it a point to seek them out and meet them. Some events have a receiving line. Make a good impression.
  3. Dress appropriately. Does the invitation say “black tie?” You might be surprised some events, scheduled after work on a weekday, specify business dress. If you overdressed, you might stick out. Conversely, many people like a gala night out and dress up for the occasion.
  4. Check the invitation one more time before leaving the house. If you attend a few events during “the season” it’s easy to get them confused. Make sure the business dress event you are head to isn’t the black-tie event you are heading to.
  5. Bring cash in small bills, a check and a credit card. Cash is for the car valet folks, bartenders and the coat check station. The check and credit card are for the paddle raise pledge, raffle tickets or auctions. You never know.
  6. Find your seat. You may have only a table assignment or a specific seat. If that’s the case, check out who else is seated at the table. Head back into the cocktail reception. You might bump into them and remark you are sitting together.
  7. Meet the top person. There’s likely an executive director or other paid professional. Find them, introduce yourself, complement them on the event and at least one aspect of the group’s mission your read about beforehand. They are used to companies filling tables with warm bodies. They will be really impressed that “you get it.”
  8. Opportunity to meet #1: Cruise the live and silent auction tables. Comment on the items on offer with the folks standing around you. A vacation of golf package is an opportunity to start talking about vacations or golf.
  9. Opportunity to meet #2: There’s often a buffet line. Get on, start talking with the people ahead and behind you. You likely started doing this at the open bar during the reception.
  10. Spend your own money. They will likely have a paddle raise or a raffle. Pull out cash or write a check. Your manager will be impressed. The people around you will see you sticking your hand into your pocket. This will get them thinking.
  11. Opportunity to Meet #3: The coat check and car valet line are bottlenecks. Don’t start thinking “I’m done. I want to get out of here.” Patiently wait, starting conversations with people around you.
  12. Make notes when the memories are still fresh. Write down who you met, what you talked about and what you learned about them. It’s likely your paths will cross again.

These charity galas can be fun. You can meet a lot of people. Attend enough and you will soon discover it’s a small world. You see the same faces over and over.

— Check out 3 Off-the-Wall Ideas to Get High-Net-Worth Prospects on ThinkAdvisor.