Many people find networking events stressful, and it's easy to understand why. The idea of walking into a room, finding great contacts and having charming conversation can be terrifying.
Luckily, there are tricks to networking successfully.
As someone whose attended more networking events than Black Fridays, concerts and manicures combined, here are tips I've found that guarantee a b@d @$$ networking session.
1. Prepare for the Networking Event Beforehand
Would you go into a test without studying? If you want an A, than no way. Prepare carefully beforehand with these simple strategies:
Have business cards ready
Once you make a great connection, you want to follow up after the event. Exchanging business cards is a great way to share contact information. Plus, having a well-designed, good quality business card gives them something tangible to hold and touch - helping you to be remembered.
Bring a pen
You may meet several people at one networking event, making it hard to remember everyone after. Bring a pen and, with each business card you get, make a little note. Note things like:
- A topic you discussed
- A project that person is currently working on
- Something you discussed and should follow up on. For example: They want to start a company blog and are looking for a writer. If you're a writer, send them samples if you offered to. If you know a great writer, ask if they'd like you to connect them. By helping that person out, they're going to think of you for future projects they need help on that match your skills.
Don't go hungry: Eat a snack
Hangry: Hungry Angry. It's a real thing. Most networking events are weekend evenings (aka prime dinner time). If you go starving, you may be unfocused and off-key. There might be food, but it's hard to speak professionally when tucking into a second plate of stuffed mushrooms. Save the food drama; eat a snack beforehand.
Dress to Impress - Networking Outfits 101
You know what they say, "Dress like the person you want to be". I love a yoga pants, too, but professional events are not the time. How you dress truly impacts how people see you. Be yourself, but be your most professional, boss self.
Levo provides straight up business fashion advice at: 7 Ways to Look like You're the CEO, Even When You're Not.
If possible, look at the "Who's Coming" list
Some events have an RSVP that will show is also attending. Look over the list to get a feel for the types of people and industries to expect. See organizations you want to work with? Do some research on those companies and make an effort to connect with those specific people at the networking event.
Feel intimidated by anyone? Read these quotes from 10 Unstoppable Female Entrepreneurs. They'll have you feeling fired up and confident in no time!
Read industry specific articles and news
Make sure you're on top of your industry's latest happenings (or the industry of the clients you want). To prepare for the networking event, read industry news and articles. That way, when there's a lull in conversation, you can chime in with, "Oh hey, did you hear that ___ and ____ merged? I wonder how that'll impact ____."
This offers insightful responses and shows you're an informed and credible person.
2. Approach Groups Instead of Individuals at Networking Events
The idea of walking up to just one person can be terrifying. Instead, join a group of people. With multiple attendees there, you don't have to do all the talking. In groups, you can hear about what each person does and quickly assess which people are going to be good potential contacts for you. Try speaking to those people more or one-on-one.
Also, by introducing yourself and what you do to a group, you don't have to repeat it as many times. "Hey, I'm Allison, a PR/social media strategist helping a range of clients with content and PR." Then, you never know. Someone may say, "Really...Could I get your card?"
Time for a self-high five.
And, if it seems this group is not a great fit for you, it's easy to excuse yourself from the conversation and head to a new group. (This can be much more awkward when talking to someone one-on-one.)
3. The Best Networking Advice: Go With Confidence
Above all, go in knowing your self-worth. People are drawn to those who exude confidence. If you have trouble psyching yourself up, try this: Power positions.
At home, outside or hey, in a bathroom at the venue, strike and hold power positions. When your body is in strong stances, such as with your arms wide out and chest puffed up, it sends messages to your mind that you are powerful.
According to 99u, here are 4 ways you can use body language to your advantage. Body language literally changes your mindset and body chemistry. So it may feel silly, but it works.
Learn more about how body language changes the perceptions of both you and how others see you in this world famous TED talk by Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.
Ordering business cards and hitting power poses - I hope you're feeling pumped for your next networking event. Have advice or tricks that have worked for you? Please share your valuable thoughts below!