It’s an unavoidable fact: building a strong network is vital for career success. In recent years we have seen traditional networking take a backseat to online connections, but smart professionals know there’s no substitute for building relationships face-to-face.
Attending industry/networking events can be an intimidating prospect, but they are an invaluable opportunity to meet like-minded people and develop great relationships. That doesn’t make it any less daunting, but keeping a clear strategy in mind will certainly help. Here are six tips to help you make the most of a networking event.
1. It’s who you know
When you arrive, find a few of your existing contacts. Familiar faces will help set you at ease. Once you’re settled – use your contacts. Ask for personal introductions wherever possible as it is much easier to meet new connections through a mutual contact.
2. Know your goals
Once you’ve mustered the courage to attend an event, make sure you make the most of it. Before it starts, set some goals for the evening: try something measurable like speaking to three potential new clients or to someone from a particular organisation.
3. Be bold and go alone
Although you might feel more comfortable at an event or function when you’re with colleagues, it can be inhibiting. If you attend alone you’re more likely to branch out and meet more people. Also, when you’re on your own you’re more approachable to others.
4. Good body language
Pay special attention to the way you hold yourself. Practice open body language—make eye contact and don’t fold your arms across your body. Ensure that you appear approachable, friendly and ready to engage.
5. Take control
You’ve made the commitment to attend, so don’t sit back and wait for someone to speak to you. Get out there and introduce yourself. Be confident and have your ‘elevator pitch’ (i.e. a short summary about what you do, your business etc.) at the forefront of your mind so you can quickly and easily engage people in conversation.
6. Give and take
Good networking is all about mutual interest and mutual benefit. Make sure you are genuinely listening and responding to the people you meet rather than talking at them. Work out what you could do for them as well as what they could do for you and help make other introductions where you can.