5 Tips to Help You Rock Your Next Networking Event
Networking events can certainly be intimidating for people new to the game, but done well, face to face networking can be a powerful tool in forging a successful career. The goal is to expand your professional network by making real connections. That means being likeable and memorable as well as impressing them with your smarts. Follow our tips and go beyond awkward small talk to make your networking event really count.
1. Set a goal
Decide on your goal before you go, and you can gamify the networking process. Think SMART: set yourself specific, measurable, realistic goals, and concentrate on achieving them. For example, you might decide that you will speak to five new people before the end of the night, or get at least two business cards. Make it fun: tell yourself you’ll meet at least one person whose name starts with an A. Setting goals will help you break down the often-intimidating networking process into smaller steps, and push you out of your comfort zone in order to achieve them.
2. Be a good conversationalist
If you do all the talking, you’ll struggle to make a real connection or discover similarities with your interlocutor. Instead, employ a 50:50 rule, and make sure you listen as much as you speak. Of course, sometimes you might find yourself talking to someone who just won’t respond. If the conversation is stilted, try and ask open ended questions, which gets the other person more engaged in the conversation and invites greater disclosure.
3. Dress to impress
You get seven seconds to make a first impression, so make sure you look polished and professional. Good posture, crisply ironed clothing and eye contact are crucial.
Another tip for dressing is to wear a conversation starter. A signature scarf or interesting tie can give people something to ask about when you’re both scrambling to find an ice breaker, and the resulting conversation can prove to be a great way to make a new connection. Accessories that relate to your travels, a quirky interest or have historical interest are great, but it’s best to stay away from political subjects.
4. Business card etiquette
Much has been written about the importance of a good business card, but it’s no use to you – you want it in the hands of other people. But how do you get it there? The general rule is to wait until someone asks you for your card, and don’t hand them out unsolicited. It’s distracting and rude. When someone does ask you for a card, take a moment and write a quick note on the back (carry a pen!) so that when they look at it later, they’ll remember who you were and why they wanted your card.
5. Following up
The key when following up with anyone you met at a networking event is to be sincere and personal in your follow up. Try reflecting back on a point from the conversation, and don’t leave the follow-ups for the people who you think might help you: if you can be of use to someone else, it’s just as important to follow through on that promise. Introducing someone new to an existing connection can have a positive effect both on their careers and yours down the track.
What do you think?
With a bit of know-how, you can turn that dreaded networking event into a powerful tool for your own career. Why not start by making a connection in the comments – what’s your best tip for rocking a networking function?
This article was written by Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Entrepreneur, Forbes