Networking can be a nerve-wracking experience that most people aren’t too fond of, myself included. What I can tell you about networking is that it’s worth your time and will only benefit you in the long run. Making connections and even lining up new job opportunities are just a few things that could come from attending these events. Below are 4 tips and tricks to take the edge off of networking and give you the confidence you need to walk into any event.
Just do it!
As was mentioned before, networking makes many people nervous; that’s why many choose to avoid it completely if they can. I’m here to tell you that regardless of your stance on networking events, you should just do it. Getting yourself out there and meeting new people will benefit you in the long run, so stop hanging out by the food tables and start hanging out with your new connections!
Another way to fight off those networking nerves is to attend an event with a friend or colleague; this makes it easier for you to approach situations with a friendly face by your side. Your friend could also already have connections they can introduce to you, which can make meeting new people a little less formal.
Who is hosting the event? Why are you attending? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, learn them! You can be even more prepared when you’re at a networking event by learning about:
- The event sponsor
- Any speakers and their businesses
- Other attendees (if you have access to an RSVP list)
As a professional you should know where you’re going, what you’re going there for and what the event will be about.
Now that you’re mentally prepared, start working on first impressions. One of the most common questions I hear about going to networking events relates to what attendees should wear. I believe you can never overdress. Attending events in your best outfit increases your chance of making a great impression. As you feel out the style of people who go to different types of networking events, you might find that a dress/suit, is a must for one group, while you may gel better with other groups in more casual attire.
Ask open-ended questions.
When I attend networking events, I like to learn what people know about certain topics and let them talk more openly about it! If you want to learn something about someone and actually find out who they truly are, ask them open-ended questions. Don’t forget to mix in a few personal questions, too.
Try questions like:
- What advice would you give me if I wanted to be successful in your industry?
- What do you do for fun outside of work?
- What one thing would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
- What do you see as the coming trends in your profession?
Open-ended questions also allow you to open up and give your honest opinions on topics in return. Many people would rather make connections with others who converse past surface level chat.
Be a resource.
Networking is all about connections and meeting new people—what do you have to offer? When attending networking events, ask yourself why others should want to connect with you. Are you highly tech savvy? Do you own your own business, or even looking to invest into another? Create a value proposition for yourself, and share it during your elevator pitch.
Everyone has value—if you don’t know what your value is, consider being a “connector.” Connectors do just that: they connect people they meet with people in their network. Doing this helps you in the long run because most people, including myself, will reciprocate a good deed, creating a positive business relationship.
Walking into a networking event 100% prepared will make the experience more enjoyable and presents you with greater opportunities to connect with others. Everyone’s nervous, so take a deep breath and be the networking genius you know you can be.
Have other awesome networking tips? Share them in the comments below!