You’re about to start the networking process, but you’re shy, introverted or nervous, or have never been to a networking event before. Networking can be intimidating, even if you’ve been to a few different events. You need to put yourself out there, and it’s normal to be nervous. Networking is a process that will help you make connections that could help you to move your job search, career, or business forward. For those are new to networking, or are struggling with the task of talking to new people, here are some tips to help you stand out at networking events for all the right reasons.
Research The Event And The Participants
You’ve found a networking event that you want to go to, but you aren’t sure how to prepare. The research could be difficult, depending on the event, but a lot of networking events, especially those attached to career fairs, will have a list of the different companies that are going to be attending to the event.
Make sure you look into each of these companies and make a list of who you want to meet with. If you’re really interested in a particular company that will be at the event, you should do your research on their company history, and be ready to start a good conversation with their representative at the event.
Make An Interesting Business Card Or Calling Card
You’ve registered for the event, done your research on the companies attending, and made a list of the people you want to speak to. The next thing you need to prepare is your business cards.
If you’re new to the working world and on a tight budget, then you can still make a calling card rather than a business card. A calling card is just a simple card that includes your name, phone number, email address, and any relevant social media accounts, such as your LinkedIn, or a blog address.
If you a job, and some more money to send, go for a non-traditional card made from good-quality paper with a memorable design, or something that will stand out like foil business cards.
Approach Open Conversations
You’ve got your business cards ready to go, and you’re about to attend the networking event. How are you going to approach people?
When you arrive, scan the room. You’ll see some groups in the event that are already in a conversation. You need to find the right moment to approach them. Look for when they have an opening in their group.
The best way to start is to approach two people are open. You can spot an open conversation by looking for people facing out. A group all standing together in a circle facing each other is closed, but if they’re in a semi-circle facing out, this is open and gives you a gap to get in and join their conversation.
You’ve scanned the room and found an open group to try and join. You’ve made your way to an open group, and someone has reached their hand out for you to shake. Getting your handshake right will help you to make a good first impression. It’s important to match the pressure of the other person when returning their handshake.
Doing this well might take you a bit of practice, but if you don’t match the confidence of a handshake you’re given, people will notice. Take some time with a friend beforehand and practice, even if you feel silly doing it. Try out some different types of handshakes and see what works best for you before you go into an important networking event.
Make Eye Contact
So you’ve successfully shaken somebody’s hand. Now what? Now you have to start a conversation with them, and they’re looking right at you, expecting you to say something. If you’re nervous, one thing that can go a long way to making you come across as confident is to make eye contact and keep that eye contact when appropriate.
As technology becomes more and more important in society and in our daily lives, we’re starting to look at each other in the eye less and less. By maintaining eye contact with the person that you’re talking to, you will appear confident and sincere, which is exactly what you want people to see you as when you’re at a networking event and trying to make professional connections. Your eyes are a powerful tool that can show that you are interested in another person and what they’re saying to you.
But remember to note carefully when it is appropriate and acceptable when to make and maintain eye contact.
You’ve made eye contact at the right moment, and now you have to talk. This is the perfect time to make use of all that research you did before the event, and show off some of the knowledge that you have of your industry, or the industry you’re hoping to get into.
This first conversation is also a great time for your elevator pitch or to talk about your interest in opportunities at the company of the person that you’re talking to. You need to make sure that the conversation you have with people is meaningful. You can do this by making sure that you listen to other people when they talk, take mental notes, and be prepared to follow up what they say with relevant questions.
It can also help to make sure that the other person talks about themselves. In general, most people really like talking about themselves and they do. If you can remember that fact, this will work in your favour when making meaningful conversation at a networking event.
Always Follow Up
The event has finished, and you’re back at home for the next day or two. If you managed to have a few good and meaningful conversations with the people you wanted to connect with at the event, then you can now use those conversations to introduce yourself when you connect through email or on social media.
LinkedIn is your best tool for this. If you’re sending a message to someone on LinkedIn that you met at the event, make sure you have something interesting to put in your invitation to connect. If you had a meaningful conversation, this gives you something to say. Refer to something they said, add another point to what you talked about, or send a link to an article you referenced when you spoke. When you connect with people on LinkedIn and they don’t know you, and you don’t add some kind of personalized message to your invitation, then you will have a far smaller chance of the connection request being accepted. If you write a personalized message that relates to a conversation you had at a networking event, you will have a better chance of making an impact and making a connection that will help you to advance in your career.
Networking can be a scary thing when you first starting going to events, but these tips should help to make the process a little less scary and a little bit easier. If you can make a networking event a success for you, then you can make some important connections which could help you to get a foot forward in your career. Networking events can be helpful to you at whatever stage at your career you’re at. Whether you’re trying to get your first job or you’re looking for the next step up, you can help yourself by standing out at a networking event.