5 Tips for Getting More Out of Your Next Networking Event
Via LinkedIn : I recently attending what would traditionally be called a networking event. It was a event put on by a non-profit focused on women in a particular industry where somewhere around 125+ people attended. So it was large enough that you wouldn’t know everyone. In fact, I didn’t know anyone. And, I went alone. Now, would I have liked to bring a friend along? Sure. It is always fun to go to things with friends and certainly in a place where I knew no one, it would have been a great security blanket. But, here’s the thing – had I brought a friend along, I may have felt more comfortable BUT I would have been a lousy networker that night. So even though it is not officially one of the tips, I encourage everyone to go solo to networking events every now and then. When you go with a friend, you can easily stay in your own comfortable space. When you go alone, you have to meet people and, by doing do, increase your network. Here are five ways to embrace, if not enjoy, large group networking.
First, do and go to things that you LIKE to do. The event I went to recently was a completely different industry but I was passionate about the evening topic and anxious to dialogue about it. I knew that even though I didn’t share industry experience, I definitely would connect with the attendees based on the topic. You may have a hobby, a cause, an interest that you would do regardless of if you were going to make a connection and those are the events you should attend. They can come in all shapes and sizes – charity event, kid activities, sport club, department happy hour, etc. Go to something you care about and you are much more likely to enjoy yourself and connect with others who feel the same way.
Second, enter the room/space with confidence. Confidence is a big theme for me right now. In a nutshell, you get confidence by doing something. Not thinking about it, not planning for it, but taking action and jumping right in. This is a common theme with the clients I work with and it not only applies to networking but also being confident about themselves, their work, etc. Before you go into the room/space, take one or two deep breaths. Then, when you enter, be the person that has their head up, scan the room while at the door (confidently, not like you look lost) and comfortably walk toward an part of the room that looks inviting. People want to be around good energy. If you walk into the room looking lost or like you don’t belong, you will not attract others to you.
Third, make the first move. Remember, you are not the only one that came alone. When scanning the room, look for someone else that may be alone and strike up a conversation with them. It’s a great warm up to the evening. Don’t feel like you have to “work the room.” It is much more productive to strike up 2-3 real conversations at the event then rush around the room trying to meet a bunch of people whose names you can’t remember the next day much less trying to connect with them for professional reasons down the road. When it comes to networking connections, quality trumps quantity every time.
Fourth, be a good listener. When you strike up a conversation, make the conversation be about the other person. Be curious. Ask questions about them, their work, their personal interests. Listen for things that will create a connection between the two of you and go deep in that common space. For those of you that are introverts, don’t feel compelled to do all the talking. Ideally, you want an 80/20 mix. With you being a listener the majority of the time. And, for you extroverts that like to talk – remember, the more the OTHER person talks, the more they like you. Don’t worry about not telling them everything about yourself. If you make a good connection with someone, there will be other opportunities to tell them your story.
Finally, follow-up is key. You should follow-up from your interactions, in most cases, within 12 hours. The goal is not only to follow-up but be the first one to do so. So many people do not do the follow-up piece which makes future contact tough to establish. By following up, you give yourself the opportunity to have one more “touch” with that person. By being first, you are more likely to be remembered.
I love networking but I know not everyone does. The thing about networking is that it doesn’t have to be scary. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. When you take the right approach, you can find yourself enjoying the evening more than you thought you would and make some great connections along the way.
Kelly McClellan is a career and performance coach. Working with women professionals and leaders, she helps people actively manage their careers, inspire confidence and create alignment in their personal and professional lives.
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