Networking Events—You’ve Arrived, Now What?

Posted In: Mentors / Networking
Posted On: 3/28/2013

Alone. In a sea of people that you do not know. And they all seem to know each other! Could you feel any more naked? Should you leave as quietly as you walked in? NO!!! Admittedly, your first networking event is probably going to be tough, but it will get easier as you attend more. But there’s nothing wrong with being extra prepared. So, I have a few quick tips to make it easier for you and more productive, too. Let’s get started!

First, bring a friend if you can. It’s so much easier for two people to insert themselves into a group who are already chatting. I think that partially has to do with the confidence that you have when you’re not alone. And there’s the extra advantage that you can always talk to your buddy if no one else seems interested in you! Second, don’t just look around for that person who may be well-known or the most senior. You never know who you’ll meet that may become a connection for you in the future. So, just walk up to anyone who looks interesting! Hopefully, someone will take the same approach in getting to know you. Third, always introduce yourself in a concise manner and hand out your card. Generally when someone gets a business card, they will also share their card in return. And, make sure you actually look at their card when it is handed to you. I find it is so much easier to remember names when you can connect a face with a written name. And, let’s be honest, we all love when people actually remember our names! Fourth, try to spend more time asking questions than talking. Most people like to chat about themselves and they will probably remember you better if you are the one asking engaging questions that show you’re actually interested in them. Plus, you will learn more when you are listening, versus talking. Fifth, when you do have a moment to chat about yourself, make sure you share something that would be relevant to the other party. What’s something that would make them interested in knowing more about you? What story would you like them to remember about you? For example, your main purpose in attending the event could be that you are looking for a job. That’s fine, but it’s the same reason many people are at the event, so it’s not a fact will not set you apart! Instead, think of sharing something interesting about yourself that will prompt additional questions. It could be a brief summary of a trip you took to Africa to work in an orphanage or a recent case competition that you participated in. Your goal here is to get the other person to want to ask you more questions and to remember YOU! Six, unless you are absolutely enamored with the person that you are talking with, make sure you do not stay with the same person all evening. You’re here to meet people, right, so make sure you have the opportunity to do so. An easy way to leave a conversation and move on to the next one is to be polite, but frank: “It was so terrific to meet you, but I am new to this group and I want to make sure I socialize a bit more.” And, if appropriate, add on “…and it would be great to grab coffee in the future to get to know you a bit more.” Finally, when you leave the event, make notes on the business cards about anything really special that struck you about the person. That way, when you do follow-up to meet for that coffee, you can reference something that you talked about. It will be a way for them to know you paid attention and for you to  connect in a non-generic way. Networking takes time and follow-up, so try to get into a regular routine of meeting new people. BTW, try to have some fun while you are at this!