Career fairs add a personal touch to a job hunt that often takes place mostly online these days. Use these techniques before and during a career fair to help you make a better impression.

Before a Career Fair

1. Clarify your purpose. Know what you want to achieve. You may be looking to line up interviews with specific companies as soon as possible. On the other hand, you may be at a stage where you just want to learn more about organizations that interest you.

2. Research each fair. Visit the website for every job fair you attend. Get familiar with the sponsor and the employers who are expected to attend. Do more extensive research on the companies that look like the best match for you.

3. Polish up your resume. Proofread your resume and bring along multiple copies on high quality stationery. If you?re considering jobs in more than one field, make different versions emphasizing your most relevant qualifications.

4. Print business cards. Simple business cards are inexpensive to print, especially if you get a template that lets you do it yourself. Hand out your card to representatives who have a policy against accepting full resumes at the event.

5. Rehearse your opening lines. Expect to make a brief introductory speech at each booth you visit. Practice stating your name, summarizing your background (including a couple of top accomplishments), and describing the position you want. Keep at it until you can do this in fewer than two or three minutes and sound natural doing it.

6. Recruit a friend. Attending these events solo is fine but you may also benefit from the support of a friend. Touch base at strategic intervals to encourage each other and share feedback.

7. Dress to impress. Business casual is usually the way to go. Good grooming, simple accessories, and dress pants and shirts are a safe choice. Ensure your shoes are comfortable enough for hours of walking, and give them a quick shine on your way out the door to the event.

8. Volunteer your services. Volunteering is a great way to get inside information and make personal contacts. Call the organizers in advance to see if they can use your services.

During a Career Fair

1. Get there early. By arriving early, you catch the recruiters while they’re still fresh. They’re also more likely to remember you during the relatively quiet first hours than after the crowds build up.

2. Focus on your top prospects. Make a list of companies you think you must see. Budget your time so that you can talk with all your best leads.

3. Give yourself plenty of time. Schedule more time than you think you need. You’ll be able to take advantage of any additional opportunities and you can always go home early if you finish ahead of time.

4. Be friendly. Remember to smile, shake hands, let people know you’re glad to meet them, and that you?re enthusiastic about their organizations. Employers evaluate your personal qualities as well as your skills and experience.

5. Take it easy on the give-away items. All those free key chains and water bottles may look tempting. To maintain a professional appearance, limit yourself to what you can carry inconspicuously in your briefcase or tote bag.

6. Be prepared to follow up. Get the name of everyone you speak with and clarify the next step in the process. Send a prompt and personalized thank you message to express your appreciation and keep the communications going.

A career fair is a valuable opportunity to network and introduce yourself to employers. Keep using the usual online tools but add these events to the mix to make your job search as rewarding as possible.