By Pat Mcnamara
For a lot of people, especially the more introverted among us, attending a networking event can feel a lot like stepping into a haunted house as a little kid. At first it seems harmless enough, but once you get inside the doors fear and intimidation take over, and you start to realize you may be in a little over your head. Unfortunately for those individuals, networking is crucial for success in today’s business world. Introverts may be surprised to realize that networking events can actually be quite a challenge even for those who are more outgoing and enjoy social events. Business networking events are unique due to the type of environment they create, with the individuals attending all having very specific goals and interests related to their professional ambitions. Even the most adept social networker may struggle to create a strong business relationship with the contacts they meet at a networking event, and find it harder still to build those relationships and make them last. Whether you’re the shy quiet type, or a more outgoing social butterfly, you should read on for our top 5 tips for making your next networking event a complete success
- Prepare Yourself & Set Goals: Going into a networking event with purpose and specific goals makes all the difference. What do you hope to achieve? Who do you want to meet? What do you plan to discuss with them when you meet? Knowing the answers to these will be the difference between getting a bunch of business cards for people you never intend to talk to again, and making the meaningful connections that will help you grow professionally.
- Do Your Research: Make sure you’re finding the right events by researching who the host is, who the speakers will be, and the types of individuals who will be attending. Many events, especially on websites like meetup, will offer a list of attendees. Make sure the events you’re signing up for include the type of professionals who are in your field, and may have something to offer you. Then, get familiar with the individuals you’d most like to meet by checking out their event site profile, so you can be prepared for meeting them in person.
- Make Personal Connections & Show Real Interest: The hardest part about making contacts at networking events is finding a way to get the conversation started. No one wants to be immediately propositioned by a stranger asking for something from them, so be ready to connect on a more personal level to start. If you notice someone wearing a logo for a brand or team you like, or even if you just happen to like their shoes, let them know! Discuss something about the event itself, such as how great the speaker was, or if you liked the food or not. If you find someone sitting on their own you might say “Wow, this is overwhelming; there are so many people here! Mind if I sit with you?” Opening the conversation with a pleasant, non-intrusive comment, or discussing your shared interests will make it easier to segue into business-related conversation. It also makes it far more likely that you will stand out in the other person’s memory as someone they enjoyed meeting, rather than just another person looking for a leg up in their work.
- Be Approachable: Make it easier on yourself and avoid having to approach others all together by making sure you’re coming across as friendly and approachable! That way, a lot of great contacts will actually come to you. Be mindful of your body language, and make sure to smile!
- Follow up: The biggest mistake most people make when attending networking events is not getting a person’s contact info, or worse yet, getting their info and never using it! Make sure you get business cards from anyone you find interesting, and send them a quick note via email or LinkedIn within 3-5 days of meeting them. Connecting on LinkedIn is key, but be sure to send a personalized message reminding them of where you met, and how much you enjoyed meeting them! Be sure to keep in touch, and if you made that personal connection like we suggested, it should turn into a beneficial relationship somewhere down the road!
Atlantic Associates Inc. is dedicated to making sure our talent pool is successful in all areas of their professional lives. We work with job candidates to make sure they are confident and ready to succeed in the business world. Contact AAI today to learn more about working with a recruiter and how we can help you advance your career!