Networking is an important part of any job, essential for building not just your own personal brand but your organisations. While some people love events that give them the opportunity to network, others may not enjoy meeting and making conversation with strangers and view such events as daunting situations at best. Below, we outline some of our favourite tips for making the most of networking events.
- Keep your introduction simple and remember the name of the person you are talking to
- Arrive early – this enables you to meet people at the beginning, when groups won’t yet have formed and will allow you to get to meet multiple people at once
- If possible, bring someone with you – a networking wingman, a colleague who is also interested in attending the event – it can be easier to network when there are two of you
- Find a group of three – three is the magic number as it is not so big you won’t be noticed and a group of three generally means that two others have already allowed someone else to join their conversation. Approach the group and see if someone either invites you to join the conversation, or wait until there is a natural break in the conversation and ask if you can join in
- As with point one above, when introducing yourself, keep it simple, “Hi, I’m X” will work very nicely for starters
- At events with food, this can be a useful conversation starter, simply asking the person what they are having and whether it is good can be an easy and natural way to strike up a conversation
- Remember, if networking isn’t your favourite pastime, other people don’t necessarily enjoy it either, approaching someone who is alone and looks slightly uncomfortable and saying something like “these events can be so crazy, mind if I join you over here where it’s a little quieter?” can be a good way of striking up a conversation with them
- “Was it difficult for you to get here?” is a safe one in most cities where traffic is generally terrible
- Follow up on any of the above conversation starters by asking them some questions, you already have something in common – the event you are attending, ask them what attracted them to this particular event with questions such as “What about this event caught your attention?”, or “You seem to know a lot of people here, tell me about your involvement with the group”
- Use open ended questions whenever possible – use the “who, what, when, where and why” approach. Open-ended questions encourage the flow of conversation and prevent awkward silences
- Explore origins with questions such as “How did you first get started in this?” “How did that begin”, “How did you become interested in this?”
- Listen actively to what the person you are talking to is saying, ask questions at appropriate times, don’t interrupt and acknowledge what they are saying either with a nod of agreement or verbally if appropriate
- Don’t hand out business cards unless someone asks for them
- Talk about what you know, brush up on current events ahead of the event and keep it non-controversial!
- Smile and be confident, in yourself, your skills and your experience