Have you wanted to attend a networking event but find it too nerve-wracking an experience? Are you not getting as much out of networking events as you might like? I am by no means an expert, but I have picked up some tips and developed other tools over the years that have helped me navigate such events. Here’s how I handle it:
1. Quality over Quantity.
A lot of people define success at networking events as handing out as many of their business cards as possible. In my experience, this doesn't work -- and it typically makes you look bad. If you don't spend enough time getting to know someone, it is highly unlikely that they will remember you. Instead, focus on making 1-3 good connections at each event.
2. Have an "elevator pitch" prepared.
Be prepared to answer the question: "So, what do you do?" Your answer should be so concise a description of you and/or your company that your mother should be able to understand in the time it would take to ride up an elevator. If you don't like talking about yourself, focus on your company. Make it fit your personality -- but you want it to be memorable enough that it sticks in the mind of the person you are speaking with.
3. Do not come to sell. I have found that the best way to expand your network (to get new business, find a new job, etc.) is through building relationships and credibility. A networking event is not a sales floor, in my opinion.
4. Come prepared.
I hope that every time I meet someone new that we find a common interest and that conversation comes easy. It does not always happen that way. I don't think there is anything wrong with having some canned questions ready in case the conversation is not going as smoothly as you'd like. Questions such as, “How did you get started in your career?” or “What do you like to do for fun outside of work?” or "What is the last book that you read?" are all fine questions. Also think about what you want to share about yourself.
Again, if you don't like talking about yourself, try shifting the focus to the other person. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying and ask them lots of follow-up questions.
5. Connecting after the event.
If you make a connection at an event, follow-up with that person. If you invite to connect with that person on LinkedIn, do not send the generic, "I want to add you to my professional network." Send them a note that reinforces the conversation you had with them at the event. Same if you try and connect through any other networking site or by email.
6. Have fun!
No one wants to talk to the person hiding against the wall with their arms across their chest or with their nose in their smartphone. Relax and have some fun!
We hope to see you at the next Magnet event!