Whether you’ve got your first event on the horizon, or are just looking to up your networking game, having a plan can help you get the most out of any networking situation.
When it comes to learning how to network, here are our top tips:
- Don’t rush into conversation.
- Be curious but don’t be pushy.
- Treat everyone like they could be really important.
- Remember that networking isn’t about instant payoff.
- Conduct yourself in such a way that someone would be happy to work with you.
Having those points in mind while at an event will have you off to a great start. Looking for more in-depth advice? Keep reading.
Meet the people you came to meet
If there’s someone you’d like to meet at an event, but they’re too busy or swarmed by others, look for peers that might have come with them (i.e. colleagues, friends or publicists standing nearby them). These people are the gateway; once you strike up a conversation, they can introduce you.
Alternatively, politely go up to the event host or moderator. They always want their guests to have a good time – so say, “This is my first <event> and I don’t know anybody here. I’m interested in <this>, <this> and <this>. Are you able to introduce me to anyone here you think I’d get along with?”
Pick the right person to speak to
Look for the most relaxed people in the room. They have most likely made it (i.e. have nothing to prove) and could be a very valuable contact. Alternatively, look for those who demonstrate open body language and the ability to hold a two-way conversation.
Make one-on-one conversation
The small talk is the big talk. Become memorable by talking about different interests (not just work). Events provide the opportunity for people to connect on a more personal level (i.e. where are you from, what are you most excited about these days, which session are you looking forward to attending?).
Join a group conversation
Don’t barge in and start talking about yourself. Just quietly slip in to the group and politely ask, “Hey guys, do you mind if I join you and eavesdrop on your conversation? It’s my first time at one of these events and I don’t know anybody.” They won’t say no.
Once they’re talking, be inquisitive and ask, “Why is…?” The aim is to start a debate. After a few minutes, someone will turn to you and ask, “What do you do?” At this point, you want to give the shortest response possible. Something like, “Well, I do this, and I’m interested in this, so I came to find out more.”
Pause and wait to see if someone asks for more. If they do, you can talk about what you do in a bit more detail. If someone expresses even more interest, you can offer to email them about it. This strategy helps you make a positive connection via email after the event (remember to only offer something of value, do not bug them!).
Move on and meet someone new
It’s important to be polite when ending a conversation. Say something like “Well it was really nice meeting you. I might grab another drink / go to the bathroom before the presentation starts. Do you have a business card?” Getting a business card means you can follow up with them later, while making the most of your networking opportunities on the day.
Follow up after the event
Unless you had a really good rapport, avoid emailing them with nothing to say other than ‘keep in touch’ (people are busy!). Offer something of value based on your conversation, or if not, simply connect with them on LinkedIn.
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