Networking events: Love them or hate them, they’re a necessary part of life as a business professional. This is much more than showing up and grabbing some free snacks. It’s about meeting people, sharing who you are and what you do, and gaining some valuable contacts and information that you can use in your job search or at work in the future. To make the most of it, all it takes is a little preparation and practice.
Before You Go
Have a goal
Before you get to the event, ask yourself, “why am I going?” Knowing ahead of time what you’re hoping to accomplish will help you stay focused. Here are different examples of why you’re going to a networking event.
To build relationships?The best part about networking events is that like-minded individuals are all together in an informal environment. If your goal is to meet contacts in your industry, then you should most certainly attend a networking event.
To keep up-to-date with trends?This provides a great opportunity to hear what trends are occurring, and areas in which others have been focusing on. It is also a great chance to understand the trends of your target market if you are attending for business growth purposes.
To connect with key influencers?It is not every day that you have an opportunity to connect with key influencers and leaders in your field. If you were to walk past them in the street you probably wouldn’t stop them, however networking events provide the environment to approach these people and have a discussion.
To recruit new employees?If you are in a role where recruitment is a component, networking events can be a wonderful way to meet new candidates. Generally, the attendees are interested in networking, and are eager to learn more from others. It is a great way to gain an informal understanding of a person, and decide whether to proceed with a formal interview.
Research key attendees before the event.
If there are individuals you hope to meet (and impress) at your next event, do some pre-meeting research online. Find out who they are (look them up on LinkedIn) to learn the basics about them and look for common connections, career path and interests. Many people overlook the shared interests but knowing that you both like “surfing” can become a very powerful information to create “rapport” with the other person. For those people, you do not want to miss, make sure you save in your phone their photo: it will help you spotting them among all the attendees.
Dress to Impress
When you’re planning your outfit, picksomething professional: “https://www.themuse.com/advice/looks-that-land-the-job-what-to-wear-to-any-interview”. You won’t make an impression (at least, not a good one) if you look disheveled, disorganized, or overly casual. But also pick something that makes you feel good.
Bring Business Cards
This one seems basic, but I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen forget their cards or say, “I just gave away my last one!” Bring more business cards than you think you’ll need, and keep a stack of them in a card case. This way, they won’t get dirty or crumpled in your purse, and you can grab them quickly. It’s much more professional to pull your card out of a case then go searching through your bag.
Don’t go to networking events with friends
Too often, people are intimidated by networking events, so they ask friends to come along. Then they spend the whole event talking to no one but the people they already know. Try to make a point to go to networking events by yourself when you can. This forces you to branch out and meet new people, and you’ve made some really amazing connections this way.
While you’re there
Keep an open posture
An “open” posture — head up, arms and legs uncrossed — conveys an openness to being approached. Looking at the floor or crossing your arms, on the other hand, can convey shyness, unfriendliness or even hostility.
Smiling conveys happiness, openness and confidence; not to mention that it could make you happier. Smile liberally to make yourself as approachable as possible.A Psychology Today article explained the functional usefulness of stretching the mouth into this position. “Each time you smile at a person, their brain coaxes them to return the favor. You are creating a symbiotic relationship that allows both of you to release feel good chemicals in your brain.”
Always shake hands
Research from the Beckham Institute suggests that shaking someone’s hand may increase the chances of having a positive interaction. Sandra Dolcos, the researcher behind the study, writes, “We found that it not only increases the positive effect toward a favorable interaction, but it also diminishes the impact of a negative impression. Did you know that someone scored the record for the longest handshake ever? If you want to master hand-shaking, learn how to deal with any handshake type that comes to you in our full article on our Lounjee blog
Don’t be intimidated
Even the most awe-inspiring, powerful, and successful people are just that … people. You probably have a lot to learn from them, but there’s sure to be something that they can learn from you, too. If you are shy, think about the other shy people at the event: like yourself, they would be so happy to be approached by someone and have a friendly chat. Bottom-line: no need for being shy.
Focus on quality, not quantity: don’t try to meet everyone in sight
Spending time engaging in meaningful conversations with a few people is often better than floating around the room engaging in short, superficial conversations. I used to introduce myself to lots of people at networking events, gathering business cards so I could call them later. Then I realized that a brief conversation doesn’t really develop a relationship, and calling people you’ve only met briefly isn’t much different from cold calling them. So, make sure to spend good quality time with a few people rather than a little time with a lot of people.
Make an Effective Introduction
When you meet someone new, introduce yourself by making eye contact, smiling, stating your first and last name, and giving a firm but brief handshake. Then, listen for the other person’s name (believe me, it’s easy to miss when you’re nervous), then use it two times while you’re speaking. This will not only help you remember her name, but also appear sincere and interested in the conversation.
Ask questions: Show Sincerity and Interest
Too often I encounter people who are interested only in talking about themselves.
Have a few good questions in your back pocket. Asking the other person about her background and work will show her that you’re interested in more than just your own job opportunities. The best questions are ones that can’t be answered by just “yes” or “no,” such as:
- How do you like working for your company?
- What’s your primary role at your company?
- What projects are you working on right now?
- How did you get involved in your field?
- What are you up to professionally at the moment?
- What are your challenges?
Instead of wasting golden opportunities by blabbing about yourself, ask thoughtful questions — and actually listen to the answers.This is an opportunity to show how you can help and make an outstanding impression; super-networkers are the ones who help others.
Focus on how people feel when they’re with you
Brian Honigman suggests that, “Instead of focusing on how you feel at the event, focus on making your conversation partner feel good about themselves. You can do this through being a great listener, asking thoughtful questions and giving your undivided attention. After the event, people are more likely to remember those individuals who made them feel good about themselves.”
Get to the Point
When it’s your turn to share what you do, state it in just in just 2-3 sentences. You can delve into greater detail later on, but people will lose interest very quickly if you can’t cut to the chase. The key to effectively networking is to build rapport.
Give your full attention.
It’s tempting to continue scanning the room while you talk with someone, but this is a great way to make that person feel 2 inches tall. When you’re with someone, give him or her your undivided attention, just as you would expect them to do with you.
Do not, under any circumstances, ditch a conversation partner for someone more “important”
I understand the temptation to weasel your way out of a dead-end conversation in order to talk with that CEO who just walked into the room. And while there’s nothing wrong with subtly steering a conversation to a close, abruptly ending it to speak with someone “better” is a definite networking faux pas.
Don’t interrupt. Ever
Think about all the times you’ve been interrupted. It’s not fun. Actively and patiently listening communicates that you respect the other person and are giving them the gift of your attention and presence. People can tell, and they appreciate it.
You probably won’t remember the important details of every conversation, so it can be helpful to write them down. After mingling with a few people, find a corner of the room to subtly make notes on the back of each person’s business card about who she is, what you talked about, and any follow-up you want to do. Remember, the purpose of a networking event is to connect with people in the future, and this will make following up with them much, much easier.
After the event
Follow up within 72 hours
“If you’ve promised to send information or connect with someone, a good rule of thumb is to do it within 72 hours after the event,” says expert networker Joshua Steimle.
A few days after the event, send follow-up emails to anyone you met that you’d like to continue networking with. Make sure to personalize each email, letting each person know you enjoyed meeting them and mentioning something that you talked about. A tip: One of the quickest ways to stop a connection is to send someone a generic LinkedIn invite.
This is also the time to suggest any follow-up, for example, to ask your new contact to meet up for an informational interview.
Record what you learn about the person in your software to manage your contacts
Your iPhone is the best tool you have to manage your existing business contacts. It can save and sort business cards, synchronize your contact lists across all your devices, and help you network like a champ. This link will suggest you 5 apps that can help you to manage your business contact: https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/5891-5-iphone-apps-to-manage-your-business-contacts.html
Connect with the people you met on LinkedIn
You already know that you need to follow up after the event. Now the question is what kind of message you can send at first. This video explains you how to follow up after a Networking event:
Re-connect to these people to maintain your network alive
Ever notice how moving forward in your career comes down to networking? Eighty percent of job openings are never publicly advertised, according to a 2013 Wall Street Journalarticle. That makes all those business cards you’ve collected and LinkedIn connections you’ve made extremely important.
The tricky part is keeping in touch with your network of former colleagues and clients in a genuine way, so you don’t come off as self-serving or stalker-like. The rest is all about reaching out in an appropriate way depending on your relationship with your contact, so you strengthen your connections and can tap them for help when you need it.
Networking is one of the greatest tools you have in your job search, and by being prepared for the event, professional once you get there, and proactive with your follow-up, you can make sure you get the most out of it. Beyond that, just try to relax and have some fun!