We all know that networking can be enormously helpful whether you are trying to grow your business or land a new position. Successfully navigating a networking event can really have impact. But, have you ever found yourself dreading a networking event? Are you not really sure what to do or what to expect? Networking comes easily for some people, while others can find it challenging. Build your confidence and get more from the experience by following these tips:
- Know your audience. Before attending an event, gather as much information as possible about the people you are likely to meet. Research companies and attendees by visiting corporate websites and LinkedIn. You are far more likely to have meaningful conversations if you know who you will be talking to. If you can get your hands on an invitation list, all the better.
- Put your phone away. At the event, people will be reluctant to approach you if you are on your phone and this will defeat the purpose of attending the networking session. Put the phone away and concentrate on the people in the room.
- Have the right goal in mind. Networking isn’t simply about “what can you do for me?”. It’s about getting to know people, building relationships and asking what you can do for them. Think about networking as an opportunity to pay it forward. If you can be helpful to a new person you meet, you are making the first investment in a relationship that may be rewarding to you in the longer term. Forging connections between others who might help each other is also a win/win – this ensures that the networking event is a success. Cultivating these types of relationships is the goal.
- Be approachable and personable. Even if attending an event is the last thing you want to do, look and act approachable. A smile is an invitation for conversation. Maintain eye contact, offer a firm handshake and be yourself! People respond well to authenticity.
- Ask questions. Don’t just talk about yourself. Ask questions and listen to answers with interest. Make a point to learn something about every person you meet. As conversations conclude, ask for a business card. Let your new contact know that it was a pleasure to meet them.
- Thank your hosts. Always thank the person who invited you as well as the people who hosted the event. These are the people who likely know every guest who attended so when a fellow invitee asks if they know someone who can do such and such, the first name that comes to mind will be the one that appreciated all the hard work that was put into the planning. This is an easy way to be top of mind.
- Follow-up with your new connections. In the days following an event, reach out to your new contacts to solidify the connection. This can be achieved via a quick email or an invitation on LinkedIn.
Networking can be a valuable experience and can result in meaningful connections. By following these simple tips, your next networking event can be very productive and you may leave feeling inspired and excited.
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