Kathryn Simpson at Kathryn Simpson Consulting, Creating Success from Strategy
A networking event can be a challenge for some people as walking into a room of strangers and introducing yourself is not easy. The tips described in Part 1 will mean that you are feeling more comfortable and well prepared. Now, in Part 2 tips gleaned from going to numerous networking events should help you have a productive and enjoyable time. In part 3, I will describe how to maximise your success through following up.
- Get there early. That way you don’t have to step into a crowded room, and you are maximising your time networking. You can also look at the badges/list of other attendees if it wasn’t accessible beforehand so you can decide who you want to meet later, and ask the organisers to introduce you.
- Take the first step into the room. The hardest part. If you don’t know anyone, look for someone else who is not speaking to anyone, or go and get a drink and speak to someone in the queue. If those options don’t exist look for three or more people in a group and speak to the one who looks the least engaged. In the very unusual circumstance that there are only couples in conversation look at their body language and if it is opening towards the room that is your opportunity to go and introduce yourself.
- Start a conversation. Make eye contact, introduce yourself and shake hands warmly. Smile. Begin a conversation with something non-threatening (and about them not you) For example, “How far have you had to come today?” If you sense that people are not up for small talk asking, “What did you hope to get out of this event?” or “Have you been to this event before?” are also useful questions.
- Be prepared to listen to others before you talk about yourself. This allows you to identify what you have in common and how you can help them (see next tip). Engage in a conversation about their interests and ask questions about their experiences. Confirm you are listening by sharing back what in their story resonated with you. Remember this is more about making connections than exchanging facts.
- Identify how you can help. You will have some ideas already from your preparation but now you have heard from them you can be specific. Is there an article you can send? Or someone else you know that could help them. Or something that you can do directly.
- Try and connect other people at the event (advanced networking skill!). This is helped by knowing others in the room. But by listening to others you can find out who they would like to meet and make connections later. A great way of showing your ability to connect people and ideas and favours like this will be returned!
- Be interested in others and excited about what you do. There is always something that is interesting about others and your job is to find it. And if you are not interested in what you do – no one else will be!
- Think about next steps and move on. Don’t spend too long with anyone. Once you have had a good conversation and connected it’s time for them and you to meet others. You may want to ask if they would be interested in meeting for a coffee at a later date – but be genuine and don’t overcommit – make sure you are willing and able to do this.
- Ask for their business card. If you want to meet them again ask for their card. If they don’t have one (they have failed basic networking!) ask if they can write their email on one of yours so you can connect afterwards. The new way of doing this is LinkedIn right away but a two-step process of exchanging cards and then Linking in afterwards gives you chance to decide if and how you want to follow up. Asking for a card is also a good close out tactic if you need to wrap up.
Hopefully leaving the event you will have made some connections that you want to meet again, have learnt something and have had fun. You’ll be ready to follow up and maximize your success and some tips to do that are in part 3.