Networking events are an important part of your professional development whether you are searching for a new job, looking to increase brand awareness for your new business, or simply want to improve your professional network for the future. Using networking events for building your professional network and developing relationships with other people who work in your industry or other related industries is one of the best ways to make sure that you are always in the know about the latest news, job openings, business opportunities and more that can help you take your career to the next level. In many business industries, it’s not what you know, but rather who you know that helps you get further, although there is a lot to be said for boosting your knowledge and skills, too.
Some people are naturals at navigating networking events. Natural extroverts are likely to have no problem whatsoever finding new people to talk to, making conversation, and getting at least a few new contacts by the end of the networking event, along with an invitation to join a party on the upcoming weekend. On the other hand, for others, these events can often be quite awkward and are often filled with boring, monotonous small talk and anxiety. Whether you’ve been to several networking events in your time or are completely new to the idea of networking, here are some of the main things that you can do to make sure that you get the most out of your next conference or event.
Make a Good Impression:
Bear in mind that you’re going to be meeting a lot of people for the first time at the networking event – and chances are that they are going to become influential people for your career or business. Because of this, it’s important to make sure that you put some time and effort into making a great first impression. Make sure that you’re wearing smart, professional clothing that is clean and pressed and avoid eating and drinking at the same time while you’re at the event so that you can easily shake hands with everybody that you meet. Check out some more tips for networking that you might find useful.
Find New People:
Going to a networking event with people that you know can be fun, but there’s always the risk that you are simply going to spend all that time with people with who you’re already familiar since, after all, this is your comfort zone. When you’re attending a networking event or conference, one of the first things to do is find somebody who you know to introduce yourself and get talking to. This can be awkward at first but remember that everybody is there for the same reason, and networking certainly won’t be easy for everybody else either. Jumping straight in and finding new people to talk to will help you make sure that you get off to the right start. If you really want to push yourself out of your comfort zone, attend your next networking event alone so that you’re not tempted to go back and find your friends.
Use First Names:
Remembering first names is important – and doing so will help you build your relationships with these new people. When you’re having conversations at a networking event, using the other person’s first name a few times as you’re talking to them, whenever this can be done naturally, will make it easier for you to remember their name once the conversation is over. In addition, using a first name is a simple yet powerful way to connect with a person and is likely to help your new contacts remember you better once the event is over.
Take Your Business Cards:
Whether you’re going to a networking event to find more people who work in the same field as you to improve your career network or want to raise some brand awareness for your new business within the industry and get others on board, it’s always a good idea to take some business cards.
Business cards are the one type of offline, physical marketing strategy that is still widely used today and doesn’t seem to be going out of date any time soon, unlike many others. Keep your business cards handy in your pocket – you can get a business card holder to keep them tidy and secure. Handing your business card over to the people that you’ve been speaking to at the event is an easy way to make sure that they leave with your contact details.
Listen to Others:
Even if you are headed to the networking event with the hope that you will be able to raise some awareness about your new business, it’s a good idea to try and listen more than you talk. Bear in mind that you are here first and foremost to build good relationships with people, and there is no better way to do this than be proactive when it comes to getting to know more about them. Asking questions will not only help you build a solid foundation for strong professional relationships but you will be surprised at how much you will remember. And, finding out more about the people that you meet at the event will make it easier for you to determine which are contacts that are definitely worth getting back in touch with later.
Show an Interest:
Actively showing an interest in the people that you meet at the networking event is important. People can tell when you are simply asking questions to be polite compared to when you have been actively listening to what they’ve been telling you and have taken an interest in it. After somebody that you have been talking to at the event has shared something with you, ask them a question about it. This demonstrates that you’re engaged in the conversation and actually care about learning more about the people you meet.
At some networking events, you might get the chance to speak with hundreds of different people. It can be difficult to remember all the important information about the people that you have just met for the first time, so it’s worth taking notes that you can use later. Once you’ve finished a conversation with somebody that you’ve met at the event, it’s a good idea to write something down on the back of their business card that will help you remember more about who they are and what you talked about, which can be very useful if you’re planning to get in touch with any of the contacts that you’ve made after the event.
One of the best ways to step up your networking skills is to introduce people to each other when you’re at the networking event. If you are having a conversation with somebody that you’ve met and notice somebody that you spoke to earlier walking past, there’s nothing wrong with calling them over to introduce them to the new connection that you’ve just made, especially if you think that they have something in common or might be able to build a great professional relationship with each other too. Everyone will appreciate you making this effort to help them out with making new connections, and chances that they will return the favor for you.
Don’t Jump In:
If you’re feeling anxious or nervous when you are at a networking event it might be tempting to go towards a large group of people and join in with them. However, this could come off as being a little rude, so always approach large groups with care. If you’ve noticed a group that you might be interested in getting to know a little, come alongside the group but avoid entering the discussion until at least a couple of other people in the group have said something to acknowledge you, at which point you can introduce yourself. It always helps to join a group of people if you have previously spoken to at least one or two of the people in the group earlier at the event, as they will likely recognize you and include you in the group quickly.
Follow Up Quickly:
Finally, no matter how many contacts you make at your next networking event, it’s always a good idea to follow up with your contacts quickly. Chances are that you might have met some people who you don’t feel the need to follow up with or get in contact with again, while on the other hand, there might be individuals who you definitely want to hear from again soon. Don’t wait around for people to contact you – ideally, you should not wait any longer than 48 hours after the event to reach out. This is where taking notes on the back of business cards during the event can certainly come in very handy.
Professionals attend networking events to make contacts and build their professional network for many reasons, whether you are looking to meet people who could boost your career or help with your business. At your next event, keep these tips in mind to get the best results.