“I think you should attend this networking event.” Those words strike fear in many people, even those with outgoing personalities.
Calling the event a ‘networking event’ can turn a potentially fun-filled, productive evening into a dreaded, obligatory occasion.
Networking Events Lead to Great Things:
• New relationships with people who can eventually help you in your career search.
• New relationships with people who can help you in your current line of work.
• Potential referrals for your business.
• Receiving an expert opinion on the next step for you or your business.
• An additional contact from someone you just met who could help further your career or your business.
Great opportunities are found at these events but, at the same time, they can be intimidating. Here are my tips on how to make networking events more pleasant and less overwhelming.
Tip 1: Know your Career Goals in Advance
Before going to an event, identify your goals for the event. Are you looking to find someone in an industry you are looking to break into? Are you looking to promote your business? Once you clearly identify why you are going, try to set some measurable goals about how many new people you will meet that evening or how many business cards you will give away. Having goals will help you focus on the event and reduce the time you spend aimlessly wandering around. Also, having goals will allow you know if the event was successful and if you should return to similar events in the future.
Tip 2: Utilize a Friend
Can you bring a friend with you to the event? Knowing someone who will also be at the event can put you at ease about attending as well as make you more comfortable when you are there.
The “friend” trap – Bringing a friend with you to an event can backfire if you only talk to him or her the entire night. While you feel less apprehensive at the event, you may talk to fewer new people if you have a friend to lean on.
Tip 3: Find someone you know
Is there someone you know at the event? Seek them out to say hello. If they are talking to others, introduce yourself to the people surrounding your friend. An easy question in this scenario is to ask, “How do you know
When you finally get a chance to speak with your friend, let her know that you do not know many people at the event and ask if she would introduce you to someone there. If you have a specific type of person you want to connect with, let your friend know that as well.
Tip 4: Utilize the activities at the event
The toughest networking scenario is if you don’t know anyone at the event and go by yourself. In this case, try to use the activities or functions at the event to your advantage. Does the event have a bar or buffet? Once you are in the food or beverage line, begin speaking to someone also in line. Are you at an art gallery? Approach a piece of art and chat about it with someone else who is also looking at it. It’s much easier to speak to people when you already have some common ground.
Tip 5: Find the ‘easy to approach’ people
Look around the room, can you identify anyone else who is by themselves? This may be a good person to speak with as they are probably feeling somewhat uncomfortable with the situation as well. If there is no one else standing alone, look for those in a group of two. Smaller groups are easier to approach. Before approaching any group, look at their body language. Do they seem to be having a personal conversation? Or does it seem like a more casual networking conversation? Seek out those who do not appear to be having a private conversation.
The “comfort” trap – Once you have found someone or a small group of people to speak to, most people begin to relax. Make sure you don’t stay anchored to this new group the rest of the evening. Remember your goals and act on them, being courteous at the same time. Once there is a natural lull in the conversation, use that to break away.
Tip 6: Moving on Gracefully
If the conversation is clearly over, there are several ways to easily move on so you can continue meeting new people. You can take a food or drink break and announce, “I’m going to grab a drink.” Or, at the first conversation pause, you can say something like, “It was great to meet you, [first name]. I’m going to continue to mingle and if I find anyone who could be a good contact for you, I’ll make sure to introduce you.” A final way to end the conversation is to offer your business card or ask for theirs.
These tips should take some of the anxiety out of networking events! If you have tips on making networking events successful, let us know in the comments section below.
Amy Wolfgang is a career coach who founded Wolfgang Career Coaching and co-founded Coaching 4 Good. She brings over 15 years of corporate and coaching experience to help organizations boost employee engagement while simultaneously helping her clients excel in their careers. She is a certified PCM (Professional Career Manager) and has a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin.
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