Networking events can induce anxiety for some people. Or others simply don’t realize the significant value they can provide one’s career and avoid them. Walking in to a crowded room of unfamiliar faces and putting oneself out there can be daunting and deter us from spending the time to meaningfully network. It can seem easier to talk to the one person you already know versus mingling. And we are all busy. Successful professionals want to know that the value of attending will be high. That their peers, influencers, partners, and colleagues will also be in the room. We have found that a few simple tips can help minimize the apprehension, and maximize the value of attending networking events.
Get on list serves, RSVP, and make time to go. If you are pursuing the networking opportunities yourself, you will feel a bit more in control and be interested in actually attending. Also, think of a colleague who might be a good fit to join you. But be conscious that you both must commit to meeting new people, and not just catching up amongst yourselves. Whenever possible, research others you know will be in attendance and prepare around 1) who you want to focus on connecting and re-connecting with and 2) have thoughtful questions to ask and ideas to share.
At a Networking Event
Body language is the number one thing that we notice at an event. It shows who is comfortable in unfamiliar situations, who feels like they belong, and who does not want to be there. Don’t cross your arms and always keep your right hand free from drinks or purses to shake hands. From there, we always suggest starting at the top. If you came to talk to the host(ess) or an honoree, go right for it. It will make everything else seem less daunting afterwards, and it will make sure you maintain intentionality around why you are spending time at the event.
Lastly, there is the question of business cards. While some find them already obsolete, there are many that don’t. If you have cards to exchange, keep them easily accessible in a pocket, and keep a separate pocket ready to place cards that you receive. You don’t want to have a conversation and inadvertently hand over someone else’s business card.
And most importantly, be yourself. If you are genuinely comfortable in your own skin, this goes a long way in forging authentic relationships.
If you said you would follow up with someone, do it! This is a must. We also like to send thank you notes to the host. It is a gracious, easy and small gesture that can go a long way. Every time we receive a handwritten thank you note after hosting, it is much appreciated and noted. Thoughtful follow-up can also build the overall relationship and help ensure an invite to the next event, and possibly an upgrade to a VIP table or private reception preceding the next event.
Lastly, we do a quick mini evaluation of the event, the organization hosting, and our own participation. Was it the best use of our time? Were the types of people we were looking to network with at that specific event? This helps create more proactive, enjoyable and successful networking experiences.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Starfish Impact approaches real connections and networking building, check out Purpose Driven Connections.
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