It’s the time of ‘new year, new me’ but how many times have you said that about a goal and never actually achieved it? If this applies to your annual promise to attend more events and get better at networking there is a way to boost your motivation and get out of the slump. Read on for our tips on how to become a networking natural.
Don’t just rock up to a networking event and expect people to flock to you and pass you their cards, if you want become a networking natural you need to put some effort in. Make a plan before you attend of what you want to achieve, whether this is making some interesting contacts, spreading information about your business or just feeling more comfortable talking to new people. This will give you a sense of focus instead of simply rushing straight to the bar to cash in your drink tokens as soon as possible.
Homework doesn’t end at school
Another key thing you need to do before you cross the threshold is to do your homework and find out who’s who. Most networking events will have a list of attendants that is available either on the website you registered on or a dedicated Facebook page.
See if there’s anyone from a company you’d like to speak to or anyone you’ve heard good things about through other connections and do some research on them. Not so much that you’ve gone them running for the hills and ordering a restraining order but enough information to show that you’re not ignorant and are interested in what they do.
Late arrivals can’t be choosers
Don’t be surprised if you turn up late to a networking event and people are already set up in couples or groups. Yes the basic principle of these events is to mingle but some people will head for a familiar face when they arrive and others will just throw themselves into conversation with the nearest group so you don’t want to be left on the side-lines.
Arriving early may seem nerve wracking but it may give you a chance to meet the event organisers and thank them for putting it on and chances are they may introduce you to others if you hit it off. Getting there in good time also allows you to make the most of the event which is especially useful if you can’t attend many throughout the year. Just remember however that it shouldn’t be treated like speed dating and speaking to 4 interesting new contacts is better than just saying hi to 40.
One of the key things to remember if you want to become a networking natural is finding the right balance in making conversation. You don’t want to monopolise things and seem inconsiderate or self-absorbed, especially if you’re talking to someone who doesn’t know you well. Listening is just as important as talking and you should ask questions like ‘how did you end up in your line of work?’ ‘What do you love about it the most?’ ‘What made you attend this?’ ‘Do you go to many networking events?’ to give people a chance to share their thoughts and opinions. If you want to speak to them again in future you should also be sure to ask ‘could I grab your business card/email address, I’d love to talk about (insert topic here.)’ If you’re not sure what you’d like to discuss going forward but just clicked or you feel they’d be good to know you can simplify that and just ask for the card and details.
The event is over but the job isn’t done
So you’ve left the event full of canapes and hopeful prospects but unfortunately your work isn’t quite over yet. If you’ve taken photos or videos of the event share them on social media and tag the event hosts, location and people you were chatting with (provided said content doesn’t show them drunkenly dancing on the tables or in any bad light.) Not only does this boost their visibility which is beneficial to them, but it shows that you’re sociable and are good to network with.
Following up with people afterwards is also just as important and making the initial connection and shows that you’re thoughtful and polite. If you’ve been passed someone’s card or you’ve established a friendly connection with someone you met there reach out to them via email or send them a Twitter or LinkedIn request with a message saying it was lovely to meet them. When they’ve responded you can then decide if you want to pursue things on a business front by arranging a meeting to discuss something that came up during your conversation or you can just keep in touch if you got on well.
You can also send a message to the hosts thanking them for putting on the event and why it was a good event, especially if you didn’t speak to them when you arrived.
Now that you know the top tips on how to become a networking natural it’s time to put your charm skills into action and impress an interviewer and we know just the place to start. Check out all of our jobs here.