For the extroverts of the world, networking events are like a piece of cake. Sweet, smooth, and oh so delicious.
But if you’re the type of person who gets sweaty palms at the thought of conversations with strangers, then consider this blog post for you! There’s no need to be afraid of a networking event. Really, it won’t bite!
Sure, most networking events involve hundreds of companies and clients, all having roundtable discussions about career advice and industry tips and tricks. But what’s so scary about that?
(Okay, reading it back now, we get it. That was a lot to take in.)
But a networking event has so much more to offer you than just a panic attack or a case of hives. And who knows? Maybe by the time you’re through this article, you’ll be attending networking events left and right!
See Related: How To Build Relationships With Employees
What are networking events?
Okay, you probably already know what a networking event is. But let’s just go over its very definition again.
Networking events are a set up for other professionals to get to know one another and make solid connections. They might be more formal like at a convention.
Or, they might be casual and held at a happy hour. For those on the job search hunt, upcoming events such as these could land them a job interview just from getting a conversation started with the right person.
And ultimately, at the end of the day, these networking events are actually a fairly low stakes way for you to meet another person while expanding your own professional opportunities. See? Now that does sound like a piece of cake.
Before the networking event
Once you find networking events that you’re interested in attending, start prepping for it. Yes, you’re just “meeting people,” but you could land yourself in the room with the right people and that’s what it’s all about.
#1. Establish a clear goal in mind
Maybe your goal is to establish some feelers for a new job opportunity. Or maybe, you’re simply looking to introduce yourself and connect with other professionals in your field.
Either way, having that clear goal in mind will help you develop the confidence you need to walk through the event. Besides, knowing what you want will help you get to the point in a conversation.
That way, you won’t just be reciting your resume out loud for anyone listening. (Yikes!)
#2. Brush up on your small talk
Okay, hear us out! Sure, small talk conversations aren’t necessarily full of substance.
But you have to develop a connection and rapport with the other clients attending. You may hate these kinds of things.
But trust us when we say that playing into this part of the conversation will help you down the line. You may end up getting a job out of an unlikely connection you made with someone who also traded Pokemon cards as a kid! (Or an adult…)
#3. Prepare an elevator pitch
If you find that the next networking event is hosted virtually by a company you’re interested in, develop an elevator pitch. Begin gathering your thoughts on how you want to introduce yourself to this industry.
And make sure that you’re ready to recite this talking bit at the proper moment. Of course, only whip this out if the moment presents itself.
You don’t want to look like someone who’s got too narrow a goal in mind. Or, even worse, interrupt the virtual event host who’s speaking!
It’s just always best to prepare for anything. And a short pitch is a great way to go!
#4. Make sure you’re aware of the latest trends in your industry
If you’re worried about how to start a conversation, just keep abreast of the latest trends in your company or industry. That way, you’ll get involved in a conversation quicker.
And you’ll get to show off just how much you know! But don’t actually be a show-off about it. Nobody likes that.
During the networking event
You’ve entered the room. You look around and see so many faces you don’t know… Now what?
#5. Avoid meeting up with your friends and look for new connections
Most cases, when you’re in a new place, you’ll tend to gravitate towards people you know. Or maybe you’ll be too captivated by the clean comedian they have as entertainment for the event!
Either way, try to resist the urge to schmooze with people you already know. Or that comedian – unless, of course, you have a business connection with them in mind.
If they’re people you know, you don’t necessarily need to network with them. It’s the people you don’t know who will offer the most networking opportunities available.
This doesn’t mean you can’t say hello to people you know. But if you’re looking to connect across companies or get the latest information for your job search that’s on the down low, then this is the perfect event for you to get to networking and strike up a conversation with someone else.
#6. Ask the other person questions first before you start speaking
A conversation is like a dance. And like dance, you need to have a little give-and-take with your partner.
For some, talking is easy. It’s like they already have their resume memorized and they’re just going through the list, ticking boxes off as they go.
But that doesn’t make for a fun conversation now, does it? Ask the other person questions so that you can connect and demonstrate your curiosity.
It’s always flattering when someone takes an interest in you. And let’s be real. These networking events are all about schmoozing.
#7. When you do speak, use the other person’s name two to three times
Odds are, you’re going to meet a lot of new people at these types of events, even if they’re virtual networking events. No, really, you’d be surprised just how good a virtual emcee can make an introduction between folks!
So when you get the chance, repeat the person you’re talking to’s name to get it to stick in your head. This repetition will also demonstrate your interest in what they have to say.
And that way, it will be easier for you to recall the conversation you had when you follow up later. Easy, right?
#8. Maintain steady eye contact
Maybe this goes without saying. But if you’re the type of person who can’t maintain eye contact when they’re nervous for example, try your best to.
Communication is so much more than just the words we say. It’s the way we say them and the way we listen to others.
So get ready for some deep (but appropriate) gazing. You can always sign up for some shut-eye after the event.
#9. Be yourself, not a personal brand
Sometimes, a networking event can feel like the battle of brands. For example, you’ve got one company trying to establish their footprint in one corner.
And another company offering up a new career to those interested in another corner. But when you find yourself having a one-on-one conversation with someone, just be yourself.
Sure, we try to sell ourselves for our desired career or industry. But at the end of the day, you shouldn’t promise what you can’t deliver.
So focus on being exactly who you are. That will speak more volumes than any brand ever will.
#10. Keep your business cards at the ready
It’s not necessarily poor form to hand out your resume at networking events. But let’s just say that business cards have a little more sophistication to them.
Always keep your business cards ready as you go through and network with various individuals. After all, you want them to do remember you!
#11. Write notes on the business cards you receive
Don’t think that business cards are unique to only your career. You will without a doubt receive plenty of other peoples’ at your next event!
Be sure to take notes on the person you talked to when they hand you their card. Not only will this help you remember that person better.
It will also help you with following up. And maybe even meeting up at the next event!
#12. Exit each conversation gracefully
We all know first impressions count. But don’t think you’ve got over the hill of a first impression just because you started the conversation off with a bang!
Learn how to exit a conversation gracefully by thanking them for their time. Maybe offer up your card and mention that you see a fellow professional you know from across the room.
Either way, make it gracious. The last thing you want to do is ruin the entire event because you darted from one conversation to the next, leaving people with their jaws hanging down because you left rudely.
(We doubt you’d do such a thing. But we thought it’d be better to mention it than not!)
After the networking event
You can take a deep breath now! You did it! But the work isn’t done…
#13. Follow up
First off, congratulations on making it through the event! Your network has now expanded!
Now, it’s time to follow up. Following up is a crucial step whenever you’re trying to make a lasting impression.
After all, we all know how awful it feels when someone fails to follow up. Especially when you thought you had a real connection!
So keep your network strong by reaching out. Even if over social media or email.
Just let them know that you’re still thinking of your exchange at the event. Besides, it’s always nice to be thought of!
It’s all connected
We can’t guarantee that these tips will mitigate your panic attacks and social anxiety altogether. But hopefully, they make your next networking event more manageable!
After all, these types of events are only here to help you. And when you think about it, it’s a pretty unique thing to be offered so many opportunities all in one place.
Ultimately, networking is all about taking chances. Yes, it can be scary to put yourself out there.
But how else are you going to grab onto the next best opportunity? When it comes to networking, you’re always going to have to bet on yourself.
So do it with a smile on your face. And these tips in your back pocket!
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Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of CleanComedians.com. He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular corporate entertainer, magician, and virtual speaker.