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Some of us love it, many of us hate it. But most of us will have to do it at some point in our lives. I am, of course, talking about networking.
Even naturally outgoing characters can find it difficult to enter and approach a room full of strangers. But remember; people go to these events to meet strangers with the purpose of forming new relationships, so you’re in exactly the same position as everyone else.
To make the most of the great opportunities presented by networking, it takes a little preparation and practice.
Here are our top 10 tips to surviving your next networking event:
Read up on the speaker and any related topics. Think about who you want to connect with; check out their LinkedIn profiles and the news page of target company websites so you have intelligent conversation starters and are demonstrating a genuine interest in who they are, and what they do – this immediately gains credibility.
- Have a goal
Come up with two outcomes you hope to get out of the event—for example, meeting three new people or getting one new business lead. Knowing ahead of time what you’re hoping to accomplish will help you stay focused—not aimlessly wandering around.
- Dress to impress
When you’re planning your outfit, pick something professional—you won’t make an impression (at least, not a good one) if you look untidy, chaotic, or overly casual. But also pick something that makes you feel good.
- Bring business cards
Bring more business cards than you think you will need and keep a stack of them in a card case. This way, they won’t get dirty or creased in your bag, and you can grab them quickly—it’s much more professional to pull your card out of a case then go rummaging through your bag!
- First impressions count
When you meet someone new, introduce yourself by making eye contact, smiling, stating your first and last name, and giving a firm but brief handshake. Smiling conveys happiness, openness and confidence – not to mention that smiling can actually help you feel happier! Smile liberally to make yourself as approachable as possible J
- Focus on quality, not quantity.
Spending time engaging in meaningful conversations with a few people is often better than floating around the room engaging in short, superficial conversations. Aim to make real connections by asking questions, listening intently and moving beyond small talk, where appropriate.
- Show sincerity and interest
Have a few good questions in your mind. Asking the other person about their background and work will show her that you’re interested in more than just your own job opportunities. For example:
- How do you like working for your company?
- What’s your primary role at your company?
- What projects are you working on right now?
- How did you get involved in your field?
- Prepare your elevator pitch
Keep your introduction short. Use a few sentences you can use to accurately describe yourself or your business. You can go into greater detail later on, but people will lose interest early on if you can’t cut to the chase. Similarly, avoid using industry jargon. The key to effectively networking is to build rapport, so if people cannot understand what you are talking about, a connection will not be possible!
- Take Notes
After mingling with a few people, find a corner of the room to subtly make notes on the back of each person’s business card about who s/he is, what you talked about, and any follow-up you want to do.
- Follow up
Send follow-up emails and connect on LinkedIn to anyone you met that you’d like to continue networking with. This should be done within 72 hours. Personalise each email, letting each person know you enjoyed meeting them and mentioning something that you talked about.
For more on our events and campaigns, see ADPR’s guide to Event PR best practice