The role of networking in moving ahead in any industry cannot be over-emphasised.
Whether you’re trying to develop your personal career or forge new business relationships, making connections has become even more critical.
With Social media becoming a very important tool for meeting and engaging people, it is easy to start to undermine the importance of actual, face to face interactions with regards to networking. Nothing beats meeting and talking to someone physically. With the pandemic easing out in most places, networking events are soon going to return in full force.
So, this week, we have decided to give you a few tips on how to effectively network at such events.
Networking is a skill like any other and is one that has to be honed to become a master at it. Granted, some people are a lot more extroverted than some others and it may come to them a lot easier but networking is far more than being able to approach people and talk to them. For one to form a connection that will become beneficial to their business or career, there are things to bear in mind.
- Attend every event with a plan
Before deciding on which event to attend, ask yourself, “Why am I attending this event? Who do I intend to meet there? And of what importance will they be to my goals?”.
Asking yourself these questions will help you choose the most beneficial events to attend and will also help you prepare properly.
Now, you know who will be at the event and who you want to connect with so you go to the event keeping an eye out for them and you step in looking focused. Knowing why you are there helps you look like you know what you are doing, you dont walk in looking lost.
A good place to find events which have a full guest list stated beforehand is Eventbrite.
- Maintain eye contact
This could be a little tricky if you are someone who is introverted and socially anxious. If this is you, focusing on the fact that your career advancement and accomplishments are the reasons why you’re there will help you.
Approaching someone at a networking event and looking straight at their name tags is a mistake a good number of people make. It sends the message that where the person works or their vocation is more important than looking them in the eye at first contact and that might be off putting.
Once you approach someone, you should look them straight in their eye and offer a firm handshake, smile, introduce yourself. Make sure to maintain eye contact all through the conversation as this shows confidence.
- Don’t be scared to move to people bigger than yourself
You have researched the event you intend to attend and have properly prepared yourself. You have seen some industry hotshots will be in attendance and you go there prepared to reach out to them. You arrive and spot them in the room and start to develop cold feet and are nervous. It is completely understandable.
So, how do you approach them without embarrassing yourself?
Try not to lead with how much you admire them or their work. Yes, people like such compliments but it might just get you a “thank you” and that’ll be that. Lead with something about their work that resonates with you personally and tie it to your own work. Make yourself unforgettable by approaching not as a fan but as their equal. Say something like, “The way that you applied xxxx technique to your last project helped me tweek my own approach to a similar project I worked on and it turned out a lot better. Do you think you would have done anything differently if you had to do the project again?”. Position yourself to be admired by them as much as you admire them.
- Dress up in what makes you feel most confident.
Being confident in how you look is an instant posture boost. While it is very key to adhere to dress codes, it is also important that no matter what the dress code is, you choose an outfit and hairstyle that makes you feel your best. People can sense when you feel good about how you look and that largely influences how they move around you.
Make sure to make the best first impression by dressing appropriately for the event and also feeling comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing.
- Exit a conversion properly
It’s important to note that the goal of a networking event isn’t to meet as many people as possible. The goal is to make valuable connections.
While its key not to rush conversations so you can move through the room quickly, sometimes you do need to move on from one conversation. Whether you’re chatting with someone who isnt letting you speak at all or someone who isn’t quite living up to your expectations, you still have to end the conversation politely.
You can say “Do let me know how xxx project turns goes, i’d like to see how it pans out” This will show that you were actually interested and they wouldn’t feel offended that you are ending the conversation.
Alternatively, you can ask them “have you seen anyone from xxxx company tonight? I’ve been meaning to have a chat with them.” This will indicate that it’s important to you to expand your network
So, for your next networking event, leave awkwardness and anxiety at the door and walk in with full confidence. Remember — the outcome of the evening is in your hands.
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