Network Like a Pro
Networking events can be intimidating. You’re surrounded by strangers, you don’t know anyone and the conversation feels forced. But networking events can be one of your most valuable tools in getting your foot in the door or building relationships with potential partners, when done effectively. Let’s dive into how you can maximize your networking time and make sure you leave an event feeling satisfied and accomplished.
Make New Connections
Since you may find yourself at an event where you don’t know many people, it’s easy to find a familiar face and spend time speaking to them for an extended period of time. It’s comfortable, it’s someone you know, it’s fun. I get that, and completely understand.
But what if you spent the time meeting people for the first time? It’s not always easy, but letting your friend know that you’ll catch up with them at a later date and spending your time shaking new hands can maximize your time. I promise your friend won’t be offended.
Practice a confident introduction
First impressions matter. So practice in the mirror or with a friend how to say hello with a smile and a firm handshake. Say naturally, “Hi, I’m _____, what’s your name?” and just like that, you’ve broken the ice.
I promise you, if this sounds scary to approach a stranger, know that everyone who is attending a networking event is there to meet new people, and many are just as nervous as you are. So, do them a favor by being the one to initiate the conversation, and they will feel grateful immediately.
Preparation is Key
Before attending an event, do some research on who will be there, what topics are likely to come up, and what conversations you should be ready to have (or avoid). This will help ensure that when you arrive at the event, you don't feel like a deer in headlights.
Additionally, make sure that you have plenty of business cards on hand so that if someone wants to get in touch with you afterwards they can do so easily.
Set realistic goals
Showing up and thinking you have to meet as many people as possible would stress anyone out.
Instead, set a more thoughtful expectation to meet 3–5 people and engage in a longer conversation with each.
Quality is more valuable than quantity.
This will allow you to have great conversations with a few people, instead of exhausting yourself by flitting from one to the next (and as a result, barely leaving an impression).
The key to any successful relationship is authenticity; this is especially true when it comes to networking. People will remember those who show their true selves instead of trying too hard or putting on a facade. Be yourself and don't shy away from showing off your personality.
People will appreciate your honesty and confidence more than anything else. Plus, it's much easier for someone to think of ways they can help you if they're able to get a good sense of who you are as a person rather than just another face in the room.
When talking to your new contacts, listen to what they have to say. Taking an interest in other people's stories will only further strengthen any relationships or partnerships formed during the event
Genuinely caring about their responses, whether business related or not, is the key. Ask them about a recent trip their family took or what they did last weekend. No, it’s not business related, but people do business with people. Be “people.”
Of all of these tips on networking events, the most important is to genuinely care about the individuals that you’re meeting. Who are they, what do they like, what are their goals? Finding answers to these questions and caring about the responses will help you to leave a lasting impression.
There are multiple events this month, so take these tips and use them to maximize your time at one (or all) of them.