I dread going to networking events.
I have grown to be a bit of an introvert, I struggle to talk about myself, and I don’t like to be the center of attention; however, I do value meeting new people who can be a positive influence in my life. Networking events can be a great place to meet new people and grow a referral network.
No, I’m not a job seeker but the principles of successful networking apply no matter where you’re at in your career. Since networking events can be draining (both physically and mentally), it’s important to make the most of the time you spend networking so you don’t get burned out or discouraged.
Start taking the necessary steps to meet people and quickly make long-term professional connections at networking events.
Establish Your Personal Brand
Your personal brand, or how you want to market yourself to colleagues and potential employers, is important to develop before a networking event. Your personal brand should align closely with the values and goals of your ideal company, and establishing your personal brand will help you articulate what your career goals are to new people.
Even creating and memorizing a Branding Statement or elevator pitch will give you a confident, targeted answer to, “What do you do?” or, “What can I do to help you?” at a networking event. You’ll make long-term connections at networking events when you know what it is you’re looking to get out of the event.
See Who Will Be Attending
Most networking events are advertised on Facebook Events, the Meetup App, or another event promotion site. Several of them allow you to see who has RSVP’d to the event. Seeing who will attend the event to reach out to them in advance is a networking strategy that is often skipped by job seekers.
If you have a week or more prior to the networking event, inviting one or two of the attendees for coffee or lunch has several benefits. You’ll have a go-to person when you first arrive which will reduce your networking jitters. You’ll also have an opportunity to start networking in a more intimate environment, which is often more valuable than group networking.
When you set a goal and write it down, you’re far more likely to meet that goal. Sharing your goal with someone is even more effective because you’ll have someone holding you accountable (even if they don’t actually hold you accountable). Writing down or sharing goals transforms them from an idea into actionable tasks.
Set a goal for your next networking event such as collecting 10 business cards or speaking with four new people. Setting a goal or two will help you make connections quickly at a networking event because you can’t meet a goal by sitting on the sidelines.
This one is HUGE. If you go to a networking event with a friend or colleague, you are less likely to meet new people or make connections quickly. Bringing a friend will provide a “social crutch” that will hinder you from taking full advantage of the networking event.
I know this from personal experience. I struggle with networking, so I have invited friends or colleagues to join me. I talked to my friend and waited for others to approach me. This resulted in me making fewer connections and feeling like I wasted my evening at the event. Set yourself up for success, buck up, and fly solo at your next networking event.
Give A Compliment
People love compliments. It’s a confidence-booster, an icebreaker, and a networking tip that I can’t stress enough. If you’re going to approach a new person, giving a genuine compliment is a more casual way to start a conversation than asking questions. Yes, networking events are meant for getting to know new people; but how comfortable and likely are you to answer a question from a stranger with no introduction?
The key is being genuine. Here are a few genuine compliments you can use as an icebreaker at your next networking event:
- I'm impressed by how confident you appear when meeting new people.
- Your passion for your industry is really inspiring.
- I can tell you're really dedicated to your field.
Ask The Right Questions
There are certain questions that are inappropriate to ask someone you’re meeting for the first time, and there are certain questions that are exciting and fulfilling for someone you are just meeting to answer. The key to making connections at a networking event is to ask the right questions.
Avoid asking questions about political or social views, personal details such as relationship statuses, and ethnicity or ancestry. Stick to questions that help you go to know what the person is passionate about, what his or her career goals are, and what he or she is looking to achieve from networking.
Keep The Conversation Positive
Nobody wants to add a whiner to their network of connections. Even if you aren’t happy with your job, boss, or co-workers, keep these thought to yourself. You won’t make many connections quickly if the general tone of your conversation is negative.
Instead, keep your discussions light and positive. Focus on the things you are grateful for and maybe take advantage of. You’re more likely to make connections quickly if you show genuine concern for their struggles but offer motivation and encouragement.
Offer Your Business Card
Finally, offer your business card rather than asking for one first. Your offer will show your willingness to continue building a professional relationship and interest in passing their information on as a referral. You’re likely going to receive a business card in return.
What should you do with that business card? Add the new connection’s contact information to your contacts list, search for him or her on LinkedIn to send a Connection Request, follow-up within a few days to schedule a coffee or lunch meeting, and develop a professional relationship.
Start making connections quickly at networking events by doing your homework, setting goals, and being a positive addition to someone else’s network of connections.