Networking. This term is exciting to some of us, terrifying to others, and confusing to most of us regarding the question: What am I supposed to be doing here? In the last few months, I have started attending networking events to get to know more people in my field and to say the least… it’s tough business.
A lot of us know that networking is necessary in this extra fast-paced world, but we don’t know how to be successful at it. Networking events are full of others just like us, in our business or not, hoping to make the same connections we are. It is still a complicated business to know how to interact with all of those other people.
What to do at Networking Events
- Have A Plan. What is your goal? Have in mind what you expect to gain from the experience. Are you job searching and looking for contacts to help get your resume noticed? Are you building your own business and hoping to network with professional contacts who can help you meet your business needs? Maybe you’re new in your field and just looking for support and guidance from your peers who may have more experience than you. In any case, have in mind what your goal is. When you contact other attendees, tell them what you’re looking for and ask questions to help decide if that person will be a valuable contact, or if you should move along.
- Don’t be afraid to move on to the next person. If you immediately can tell that the person you have contacted isn’t going to provide what you are looking for, move on quickly. Have a cordial conversation with them, tell them it was great meeting them, wish them well and keep moving.
- Keep circulating through the room. Networking events aren’t necessarily the place to build relationships. It’s about making the contact and getting that person’s information so that you can reach out to them later. If you feel like you have a connection with one person and that you have similar goals, tell them that you would love to talk again or meet for coffee if they’re available later, and ask for their contact information.
- Take a break. Networking is a little like speed dating. The room is full of potential contacts, it’s loud, it’s busy, it can be overwhelming, and people move quickly. If you get overwhelmed, step out. Excuse yourself and walk outside for some fresh air, or move around outside the venue if possible. Try to avoid landing in a chair with your phone, since you don’t want to look disinterested.
- Have fun! You’re not at work, and it’s okay to have fun and be social. The conversation doesn’t always have to be focused on work and your industry and career goals.
If you’ve been to a networking event, you likely will agree that they are exhausting and a bit overwhelming. Keep it simple and enjoy the time that you have with so many other like-minded people in one place. Take advantage of that and make those connections, and remember to take your business cards!