Networking events can be pretty overwhelming even for the social butterflies amongst us. Sure you’re confident and have plenty of friends, but the second you’re dropped into a networking event you may find it difficult to ‘work the room’ the same way you do in your social life. Not only that but there is often an inherent pressure to achieve something positive for your business as a result of you attending… hardly the recipe for a fun afternoon out of the office! Luckily we have ten simple tips to help you make the most of your next networking event – and enjoy yourself while you’re at it!
Do your research
Depending on the event you may have access to a list of companies and even specific attendees prior to the event itself. This is the perfect chance for you to scope out the people you are most interested in connecting with on the day! Don’t be too ‘stalkery’ obviously, but use the opportunity to take a look at people’s LinkedIn profiles so you know who to look for on the day, and have an insight into any relevant topics you can discuss on the day. Feeling prepared before you go will help settle any networking nerves too!
Find the bar
This is basically my mantra for all networking events and surprisingly it’s NOT just to get the complimentary prosecco! Many people head straight to the bar at these events, either to grab the free booze or to get to a safe zone when you feel lost in a sea of strangers! Near the bar is an excellent location to strike up that initial conversation with other attendees… and if you happen to grab a drink while you there it’s win win!
Introduce yourself to the organiser
Even if you don’t have a list of attendees before you go you it should be pretty simple to identify the person who is in charge of the day’s event. Always try and find this person early on, introduce yourself and thank them for inviting you. Not only is it polite, but it allows you to introduce who you are and what you do to the one person who has a connection with everyone in the room – so it could lead to a useful introduction / referral during the event.
Quality not quantity
Don’t try and spread yourself too thin and speak to everyone at these events. Instead it’s better to invest more time and effort into the conversations you do have so that you can be memorable and hopefully get something out of the event. Researching the attendees before you go will help you target the right people, so you’re not stuck talking to someone of absolutely no relevance to what you do!
While business is the name of the game at many of these events it doesn’t hurt to inject a little personality into your conversations. It can be more memorable to include conversation about family / holidays than to just tell someone about the new software your IT team is developing at work. That in mind it HAS to be the right balance – nobody needs to hear about you falling asleep on the night bus after your works night out last week!
Engage and ask questions
When you’re speaking to someone you have to be engaging – don’t get distracted or tail off the conversation to move on to someone else. Asking questions is a great way to show you are taking an interest – plus it lets the other person talk away if you’re still feeling a bit shy on the day!
If you exchange cards on the day it’s great to quickly make notes following your conversation on their card. This will help you write a more tailored follow up email rather than a blanket one that won’t get that much notice. Plus it will help you remember your agreed call to action before you get stuck into the bar again.
Don’t spam your cards
Take plenty of cards with you but don’t aim to hand them all out just for the sake of it. I know myself I have wound up with tons of cards in my handbag after an event thinking “Who the hell are all these people?”, only to chuck them in the bin. It’s those few you collect following a memorable and enjoyable conversation that people are likely to hang on to.
Take time to connect others
This isn’t just about you – networking a lot of the time is about connecting others! You may have a conversation with someone who is expanding their business and therefore recruiting more staff – you may not be a recruiter yourself but you may be able to recommend one of your connections. Not only will it make you feel like you’ve done a good dead, but others are more likely to recommend you if you have done the same for them in the past!
The key to making a networking event effective for your business is in the follow up. You may have had some interesting conversations and made some potential leads on the day but this is not the time to bombard others with a sales pitch. Use your business cards, notes and information gathered for tailored follow up calls / emails / tweets etc. Plus knowing the work side comes the next day should free up more time to mingle and enjoy yourself at the event!
Sophie Heaton (Head of Employer Branding at Job Holler)