Oh boy, here we go. You’ve been invited to a networking event and you want to make a great impression. But you don’t know how. I mean, it feels like you’re circling around a cafeteria table back in high school all over again. How are you supposed to act at a networking event and more importantly, how are you ever going to stand out?
No need to fret. The truth is if you are not a natural extrovert, networking events can seem difficult or downright impossible. That’s why we have put together a few decent tips to navigate a networking event that will help you meet people, make connections, and maybe even have a good time.
Tip #1: People Want To Network (Your Opening Line)
It may seem so obvious to say that the point of a networking event is to meet people and expand your network, but that is the point. At a networking event, you can simply walk up to someone and tell them your name. It’s not only warranted, it’s almost expected.
Everyone at a networking event is there to meet people so don’t feel like you’re a bother or that no one wants to talk… everyone is there to talk. So feel free to practice a basic opening line.
The best conversation openers at a networking event have the following in common:
- Your name
- Handshake and eye contact
- A smile (yes even if you have to fake it)
- A description of where you work or what you do
- A quip (even if it’s a simple “Sheesh I am not good at these events”)
- A quick sentence on what you’re looking to accomplish
Feel free to be honest about not knowing where to start. You’ll be surprised how people will be happy to help you and introduce you to others.
Tip #2: Find Individuals or Small Groups
If you’re going to your first networking event or haven’t got the hang of them yet, you should start small and start slow. Don’t walk up to a large group mid-conversation. If you can, find an individual or a small group and approach them.
Be friendly, say your opening line, and throw in a quip. Smaller groups are more open to others joining in for a good flow of conversation. So stay small in the beginning.
Tip #3: Look Good
Yes, grandma always said never to judge a book by its cover, but people at networking events know better. Before you have even opened your mouth to say hi, you have been judged, measured, and evaluated… high school never ends.
So take control of the first impression as much as possible. Dress to impress.
Business casual is typically the best play. It says “I am a serious member of this community, but I can have a cocktail or two with the best of them”.
Tip #4: Have Your Resources Ready
Do not show up to a networking event without business cards, it’s just not a great look. You are most definitely going to be asked for a card at the end of any conversation so have a bunch of new cards ready to go.
There are also alternatives to the standard business card including:
If you typically lose your business cards or leave them at the office, settle for a digital business card where information can be transmitted quickly and easily.
Tip #5: Ask More Than You Answer
No, this doesn’t mean you can’t have an actual conversation with someone at the event, but if you find that you are stumped and you are unsure of what to say, simply ask more questions. The extroverts and networking veterans would love to tell you more about themselves and what they are up to, so let them take the reigns of the conversation.
You get bonus points if you can ask questions related to what they have already told you. Keep the conversation going and listen because there may be some nuggets of information in those answers that could lead to a great networking event connection.
Tip #6: Follow Up
Don’t just leave and never follow up. Reach back out to the connections you made at the event. Even just a simple message on LinkedIn or an email can make all the difference. Start those relationships now!
When you follow up, be sure to stick to these general rules:
- Wait a few days
- Personalize each email or message, not just an email blast
- Mention something you spoke about
- Shoot over a LinkedIn invite or something similar
You may even see these connections at the next networking event so keep in mind that you are not only building business connections but connections that you will likely see often if you continue to go to more networking events.
Find the next South Florida networking events to help your business interests thrive. This source will keep you up to date with the latest opportunities to meet and connect with other professionals in your industry.