The cocktail reception at a conference. The Facebook group meetup. The after-work social. The period before a lunch or panel discussion starts.
All of these events are great opportunities for networking. But, some people cringe when faced with a similar scenario.
If that’s you, remember that networking is worth the work. Your network is important no matter where you are in life. It’s helpful for seeking a job, advancing in your career, learning from peers or a mentor, or even expanding your social circle. Taking the time to make connections and build your network now is therefore a life-long investment.
Need a hand making networking easier?Put these seven tips into practice and make the most of your next networking event.
Tip 1: Dress to impress – Plan to wear something that you feel great in. Business casual is a good rule of thumb even if the event is casual in nature, unless the event details list more formal wear. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
Tip 2: Ready, set, research – Research attendees and come prepared with questions in case you have the opportunity to speak with them, just as you would for a job interview or informational interview. For example, if it’s a conference, learn who’s speaking or presenting a poster. If it’s a Facebook group meetup, check out the profiles of others in the group. Look into their current jobs, published papers, or businesses, and jot down things that you’re curious about. Also, find people’s photos so that you know who’s who when you’re there. But, there’s one trick to this tip – you can’t be creepy when you mention what you learned in your research! Use your newly-found knowledge as a quick springboard into a conversation. Try starting with “Tell me a bit about the project your company worked on…” or, “Tell me about your most-recent published paper, which I thought was fascinating because…”
Tip 3: Quality over quantity – Don’t overestimate how many people you’ll chat with at an event. Opportunities for quality conversations are valuable. If there are a few people who you’d love to meet based on your research, focus your efforts on trying to connect with them. But, if you spark a conversation with someone new and it flows well, keep it going.
Tip 4: Put pen to paper – Bring a pen and notebook (for example, a small Moleskine). You’ll be prepared to make a note in case someone you’re speaking with gives you a helpful tip or a resource to check out later. This way, you can avoid having to type a note in your phone, which the other person might interpret as you being distracted by a text or email. Taking the time to write down notes will also demonstrate that you value and respect what they’re saying.
Tip 5: Counting (business) cards – Double check that you have extra business cards to hand out if you have them. When receiving a business card, take it gracefully and let the person see you put it in a safe place, like your wallet or purse, to show that their contact information is important to you.
Tip 6: Follow up promptly – If you’d like to establish a relationship with someone you met, follow up with them later in the same day or the next day. The timing is very important! As time passes, you’re more likely to forget what you talked about, or they may even forget that they met you. Send an email or direct message and thank the person for telling you something new, or for the time they took to speak with you. Invite them to stay in touch with you however you think is most appropriate, such as via email, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Tip 7: Lastly, confidence is key – Be yourself and stay relaxed. If that means having a drink (at a licensed event) then go ahead, just don’t go overboard!
Do you have other tips for making networking easier? Share in the comments.
Image credits: Pixabay.com.