Going to a new networking event can be scary for some, especially if you’re going by yourself. Do these few things, and no one will know you’re a newbie, you will network like a pro!
If you go to a networking event without a clear purpose, you might end up bumbling through it. One good goal to have would be “connect with five new people.” And by “connecting,” that means actually establish a connection. Get to know their story. Find out what you have in common.
Or is there a certain person there with whom you’d like to connect? Do a bit of research beforehand. Try to find out who will be there, and have a game plan ready to go. At the very least, make sure you connect with whoever is facilitating the event. You can at least make a connection with them, and perhaps they can introduce you to others.
When you greet people, speak clearly and confidently. Have your elevator pitch ready to go just in case it’s needed. If it’s not, have a sentence ready that clearly communicates what you do, and what makes you different. Shake hands confidently, as well.
It’s better to be overdressed, but you want to at least match the room. If it’s a networking event at the beach in the middle of summer, wear something that’ll keep you cool, but still allow you to look put together. If the event is at a nice restaurant, make sure you follow the restaurant’s dress code. Remember, you want to make a good visual impression right off the bat. So, be well-groomed, put together and wearing a smile.
Do not monopolize a conversation. If you speak the entire time without allowing the other person to speak, they’re going to leave their conversation with you thinking you were selfish and not interested in developing a relationship at all.
Part of your turn speaking should consist of instigating conversation topics. When people feel like you’re interested in what they have to say, they are more likely to think fondly of you. Ask questions like, “What led you to get into your field?” Ask about their families, where they went to school… The more you can delve into their story, the better the chances will be that the two of you will have something in common, and it will better form a connection with them, making it easier for them to remember you.
Typically people don’t come to networking events to make a purchase. They come to make connections. So, keep that in mind. You can talk about what you do or sell, but don’t let that be the main portion of your conversation. Use networking events to get to know what makes people tick, what their families are like…
Don’t be a business card pusher, but have them available so that if you make a genuine connection with someone and you want to be able to connect later, you can exchange cards. Or if someone specifically asks for your card, hand it to them then. Just don’t pass them out like candy. People don’t care about your card if they don’t think you care about them.
You could potentially end up meeting several people at an event. You’ll want to make sure you take some notes as soon as you can that will help you remember specifics about that connection. For example, did you talk about their dog, did you go to the same university…?
After the networking event, reach out to your new connection with a quick message letting them know that you enjoyed meeting them. If they asked you to connect with them on LinkedIn, go ahead and connect with them, but be sure to include a personalized message in your request where you can remind them of where you met.