10 steps to success: Networking events
Jonathan Mills CA, Assistant Manager at Deloitte, shares his advice for fellow Young CAs looking to make an impact at professional events.
1. Check the guest list
If the event has a published guest list, check who is attending and whom you might like to meet.
If you have contacts who are not attending but to whom the event might be relevant, encourage them to join you. Whether or not they are interested, it is a good excuse to keep in touch.
2. Arrive on time, but not too early
Events are opportunities you should make the most of, so do not be late. Conversation groups tend to be smaller and more accessible earlier on, so arrive soon after the doors open and get mingling.
That said, do not arrive early as it can be stressful for the host and could leave you loitering until the event starts.
3. Come hungry, but not starving
Whilst there may be food available at the event, it is not a dinner if it hasn't been advertised as such. Yes, we all like mini fish and chips and a vegetable samosa, but chances are you will be deep in conversation when they arrive or, if you are really unlucky, on the wrong side of the room. Hunger cramps are distracting, so have a snack before you arrive.
4. Dress well
Most networking events tend to have a relaxed dress code but double-check to avoid embarrassment. More importantly, dress well. Like it or not, people make their first impressions based on appearance so wear a clean, pressed outfit. If in doubt, over- rather than under-dress.
5. Be confident
Be prepared to approach a group of people that you do not know. Set a challenge of introducing yourself to a group.
“Do you mind if I join you?” is simple and effective. You will be very unlucky if they say “no”.
6. Be good at names
You’re a CA. You’ve passed a series of complicated exams and yet you're "bad with names"? Make your fellow guests feel valued by remembering their name and addressing them accordingly throughout your conversation.
When someone introduces themselves, repeat their name back to them to help you remember. If you are unsure, just apologise and ask them to repeat it.
7. Fill your glass half full
The idea of the event is to meet lots of people and going to get a fresh drink is a polite, honest and natural way to end a conversation with the added benefit of freeing you up to meet other people.
If you happen to meet your future best friend or business partner, you can always meet them another time, so do not spend the whole evening just with that person.
8. Ask for business cards
Offering or asking for business cards can feel awkward but is crucial to building your network. Making introductions is good but it is difficult to stay in touch without exchanging contact details.
If you feel really uncomfortable asking for business cards, offer yours first. The worst they can do is throw it away, and the chances are they will give you one in exchange.
9. Thank the host
Before you leave, find the person who tirelessly organised the event, thank them for their hard work and tell them what you enjoyed about it.
10. Send (lots of) follow up emails
Write to the people you met early the following day. Tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them and personalise each message by referring to a topic you discussed.
Finally, leave the conversation open-ended to allow future contact, perhaps even offering to meet for coffee when it is convenient. It is also a good idea to write to the host and thank them again.
Most of all…
Try to enjoy the event. In a professional context, the concept of networking can create anxiety, and one can easily forget it is just the act of meeting and getting to know new people. If it is a good event there will be many interesting people to talk to, so make the most of the opportunity.
Join ICAS for the Young CAs Summit in London on 21 June and put Jonathan's tips to the test. The event will feature a Networking Masterclass and give you a chance to connect with peers and contemporaries from all walks of life.