08 Jul Networking Events for the Fainthearted
The email about the large networking event dropped into my inbox and I knew I ought to go, it would be a great opportunity to expand my network for my business… so why was my heart sinking?
I am a reasonably sociable person, extrovert even, and enjoy meeting new people… but I dread these kind of events. How could I plan a strategy that would leave me feeling confident that I was going to enjoy myself and make a success of the opportunity?
I started by reading everything I could find on the topic and actually, once I pulled everything together it looked like a pretty good plan. So, for those of you facing a similar challenge over the next few months, here is my 5 Step Guide to Successful Networking Events for the Fainthearted.
1. Plan ahead
- Know why you are going – set an achievable goal e.g. make 5 new contacts, learn 5 new things about the industry, learn 5 things about the companies attending that you didn’t know before
- Be focussed on others as a mindset – this is a chance to get advice and information from others. Go expecting to ‘ask’ more than ’tell’
- Let yourself be you – make it personal – lots of networking conversations are uninteresting because they are too superficial.
- Do your homework – read the papers, pick up on a few interesting stories. Come up with three things to talk about as well as three generic questions that will get others talking
- Dress the part: Feel comfortable but pay attention to how you look. If in doubt , err on the more formal side
- Take business cards with you.
2. What to do if you’re feeling like a wallflower at the school dance
- Go up to someone who is on their own. If that isn’t possible, go up to two people that are already talking – groups of three are much harder to join
- Stand near the bar so you can easily strike up a conversation when someone is turning away from the bar with a drink in their hand
- Approach the event organiser and/or offer to help out
- Join a queue so you can chat to the person in front or behind
- Ask someone you know to introduce you to others.
3. Get your Introduction Right
Ask for their name and link it to someone or something you know, to help you ‘fix’ it in your mind. Alternatively ask how their surname is spelled and then use their first name to help you remember it
Say your name slowly and separate your first name and last name otherwise they won’t hear it properly and may be embarrassed to ask you again
Describe your work – keep it to one or two sentences at first. Tell people what you love about your job/specialist area, not how many people report to you
If doing a ‘pitch’ keep it focussed on the ‘why you do what you do/what problems do you solve for people, not the facts about your role.
4. Be Curious – ideas for conversation starters
For additional suggestions on managing conversations, see Mark’s recent blog, which includes some tips on building rapport http://www.lcnetwork.co.uk/mastering-the-art-of-one-to-one-conversations/
5. Say Goodbye – moving on and following up
- “Please feel free to make contact if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can help you with.” (then give them your business card)
- Tell them what you got from the conversation with them.
- Wish them luck with their plans to ….
- Say there are a few more people you’d like to make contact with so you’re going to continue working your way around the room
- Offer a handshake to formalise your goodbye
- Take their card and make notes on the back of it
- Follow up if relevant with an email
- Connect with them on LinkedIn.
Equipped with these tips I feel much happier about my networking event, I could even say I am looking forward to it…maybe see you there?
Posted by Shona Ward