If you want your business event to run smoothly there are a few essentials you need to pick up and details you need to ensure are in order.

Networking. It’s the cruel fate many of us have to face, when we need to reach out to new potential customers or suppliers. Many of us would rather not subject ourselves to an evening of schmoozing (the free food is fine though.) However, this necessary evil must be tackled correctly so you get the most out of it, no matter how you feel and you must consider carefully, what to bring to a networking event.

But what should (or shouldn’t) you be taking with you to a networking event to ensure you have the best experience possible? After all these events are still essential to business, no matter how much you tweet people from behind your computer screen.

Business cards

Of course business cards should go straight into your bag. Take more than you think you need, to ensure you aren’t searching for a scrap of paper to write your name on at the end of the day.

A pen

Guess what? You need to take a pen along with you, and it’s a good idea to use it to make notes on the back of any business cards you receive, so you know why you want to contact that person later. You would be surprised how many people forget such a basic item.

Breath mints and perfumed spray

Breath mints (not chewing gum, unless you’re an expert at hiding it when you talk) and perfumed spray are also a good idea to take along with you. Breath mints will stop you being self conscious while talking and the spray will give you a boost of confidence before you walk into the room – which is a plus if you had a sweaty commute to the location.

Something to break the ice

Know what you are going to say to people before you walk over, you could comment on the free food, the speaker session you just listened to or the commute to the event. Just have something to say before you reach out, and then go from there.

A plan of who to speak to

There’s a reason why you are attending this networking event, whether you are looking to make a few new contacts to boost your career prospects or are hoping to make contact with some potential clientele, so it’s a good idea to know who to talk to. Most events will send out a list of who is attending beforehand and then you can use LinkedIn to search for people you want to see.

But what shouldn’t you take?

A friend

Sure, it would be nice to have someone there you know, but there’s a high chance you will only talk to them and not branch out to speak to anyone new. Leave your comfort blanket behind and stretch yourself.

Anything heavier than a business card

People don’t want to be lumbered down with magazines or brochures at a networking event, simply swap cards and send one out as a follow up after you’ve chatted, when you get back to the office.

Let’s face it, a networking event is the only time you can waltz up to a random stranger and talk to them without coming off too forward (we’ve all carefully shifted away from that over talkative guy at the bus stop on a Monday morning), so take full advantage of this and expand those business contacts.