How to win at networking events
Love them or hate them, the networking event is unavoidable in the modern working world. We can all survive them, but what about using them to your advantage? Check out our useful advice.
Making a bee-line for the comfort of the person you already know won’t help you get ahead. Or if you believe business events are all about scoffing a plateful of tasty vol-au-vents and chatting to your chums, think again.
Here are 22 ways to network your way to success:
1. Get the basics right
Have a firm handshake and a warm smile ready as you introduce yourself. First impressions undoubtedly work wonders, make sure yours are good.
2. Don’t hesitate
Fortune favours the bold and totally ignores the timid. It’s a networking event and so, by definition, everyone is there to be networked with. Do not be intimidated.
3. Take charge of the conversation
Asking the questions allows you to start and control a conversation. Here’s are a few ways to get started:
- Ask a simple question about travel or the venue.
- Ask for the person’s connection to the event.
- Stick out your hand and introduce yourself.
4. Have some questions ready
Be prepared with a few questions so you can keep the conversations you’ve just started flowing. Pick from:
- Where are you originally from?
- How did you get started in business?
- What motivated you to come to this event?
- What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
5. If you’re curious, just ask
If someone says something that sparks your interest, ask them. If they weren’t prepared to discuss it they wouldn’t have dropped a hint. It’s fine even if you overheard it, networking events are not places to keep secrets.
6. Be honest
It’s ok to admit to finding networking events a bit much, or needing some peace and quiet. You can use it to your advantage. Try finding someone on the fringes and saying: “These events can be so hectic. Do you mind if I join you here where it’s a bit quieter?”
7. Ask for someone’s advice
People love to share their wisdom. Asking for someone’s help or opinion will make them feel wise and benevolent plus you might even learn something.
8. Make people feel great
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
So tell them – truthfully – something that will make them feel good. “It’s been a real pleasure to meet you today,” is a start.
9. Jump into a conversation
If a group of people are already chatting, don’t feel shy about approaching and joining in, just do it politely. If they wanted a private conversation, they’d do it elsewhere. The chances are they’ve just met each other too.
10. Grab a breather
Introverts can still do really well at networking. If this is you, just allow yourself a few minutes’ break to recharge your batteries so you don’t feel frazzled.
11. Save the big sell
A networking event is not about selling you or your firm’s services. It’s about forging a relationship for the future.
12. Pay attention
Everyone you speak to will have something important that you can learn, you simply have to listen well to hear it. In a room full of strangers, don’t assume the loud, confident ones are going to be the most significant ones in the long term.
13. Follow up your new contacts
This can make all the difference. After the event, contact the people you met rather than sticking their business cards in your desk drawer and forgetting about them. It’ll bring you to mind before they forget who you are.
14. Arrive early
If you don’t enjoy networking, the temptation is to arrive as late as possible and leave as early as you can. However, being one of the first there gives you a good chance to talk to most of the people before the event gets busy. You’ll appear relaxed and established in the room but the time everyone else gets there.
15. Remember your elevator pitch
Practice explaining who you are, what you do and where you’re from in 30 seconds or so. It’s not cheesy, it’ll help you to take control of your interactions. Work in a few topics to tease out follow-up questions, such as ‘I’m working on a couple of really exciting projects just now”.
16. Find the right event
In any city, there are numerous different networking events from breakfast meetings to speed networking. Regular events are more likely to result in ongoing business relationships so find the one that suits you and your firm the best and commit to it.
17. Have a game plan
While networking isn’t about the hard sell. It’s a good idea to keep your objectives in mind as that will shape your interactions. Are you looking for new clients, mentors or investors?
18. Get a list of attendees
As if you can get a list of attendees before you arrive so you know if there’s anyone you particularly want to meet. That way you can seek them out and you won’t be in danger of missing them.
19. Give yourself a talking to
If meeting strangers makes you anxious – and it isn’t uncommon – then set yourself up with a pep talk about how much you have to offer and how happy people will be to meet you. Run an image of yourself confidently greeting new contacts through your mind.
20. Make your excuses
Avoid getting stuck with the same person for the whole event by having a few excuses up your sleeve. Politely arrange to talk to them another time and say you’re sure they have plenty of networking to do too. The move on.
21. Take the opportunity to present
Some networking offers you the chance to present to the group. Seize this opportunity as you will be able to demonstrate your knowledge and experience to many people at once. Don’t forget to invite them to introduce themselves later.
22. And finally... smile
Not only does forcing a smile actually make you feel happier and more confident, but scientists have proven that if you smile when you meet someone for the first time, they are much more likely to remember you.