Networking is not as easy or as natural as most people think. It’s not just a face-to-face meeting, networking could involve a combination of emails, phone calls, attending events and social media exchanges. It is hard to master and takes practice. Successful networking is achieved by having an open mindset, practicing and planning. Networking could result in landing your dream job, finding your next client, nurturing a relationship, recruiting new talent and growing your brand.
Elevate your event networking experience and you will feel more comfortable and rise to the occasion. After you RSVP to attend an event, you are on your way to increasing your knowledge about the topic and ready to network. Follow these 9 savvy networking tips to ensure a better networking experience:
1. Become familiar with the event agenda and topics
Advancing your knowledge of the agenda prepares you for the event and to network. Before arriving at the event, review the list of speakers, their bios and the topics on the agenda. Do a quick online search and learn the background of the speakers. The preparation allows you to focus and maximize your time at the event.
2. Prepare your mindset to meet new people
It might not seem like a conscious choice, prepare your mind to actively meet 3 new people. You could also contact people ahead of time and set-up meetings. If possible, get a list of attendees and email people that you would like to meet at the event. The message could be something like,
"Hello Kim, loved your thought leadership book and I noticed we’ll both be at the Greenlee Summit in April. I’d love to connect."
You could also send a "LinkedIn Inmail" message or start the conversation and connect. Definitely use the social platforms that will give you the best professional exposure to the individual you want to connect with at the event. LinkedIn, Twitter, IG are are few examples of popular social platforms.
According to Laura Vanderkam’s article in FastCompany, How To Master The Fine Art Of Small Talk, "A good networker is looking to foster relationships and build a community never knowing how that contact can help now or in the future. My motto is ‘every conversation is an opportunity for success.’"
Meet at least 3 new people. If you are ambitious, make it 5.
When you set a goal, it will drive you to get it done. When you hit the goal, you get to go home. Plus, you might surprise yourself and enjoy the conversation.
Walk up to a person standing alone and introduce yourself. You might be remembered as the person that helped them begin their networking journey.
If there is a group of people, you can listen to the conversation and add your point of view. Be concise and don’t overtake the conversation.
Make sure you don’t get caught in a ‘friendship huddle’ with people you already know. You may end up not leaving the huddle for the entire event. Find a clever way to break free. Part of the objective of attending the event is to meet new people.
3. Prepare your pitch
Before the event, invest some of your time to rehearse your 15-30-second personal persuasive commercial. You might have to look in the mirror and practice. Or practice in your office, while you exercise, while in your car on your commute home. Find the time. It will make the networking experience more comfortable and enjoyable.
Practice your answer to these questions:
- Who are you? Why are you amazing?
- What was the last book you read?
- What do you think of the presentation?
- Have you read the speaker’s book?
- Have you seen the latest article about the speaker in Forbes, in the New York Times or on LinkedIn?
Something I often do at networking events is volunteer something positive about a topic and hope we can continue a conversation. I have been practicing this for a few years now. Try it and let me know how it works.
Show up! Bring your best self to the event.
Be authentic. Who do you want others to see you as at the event and beyond?
It’s never a good idea to start any relationship with a lie. Be genuine. Definitely, leave your inner snob at the door.
4. Be present. Silence your smartphone.
If you are one of those people that writes notes on your smartphone then great! It’s a good idea to carry a pen and write on the business cards (you remembered to pack!). This way you can make notes about key details about that individual in order to reconnect and remember later.
Keep your smartphone ‘on’. If you plan to text your best friend, check work emails or respond to non-urgent or mission critical email, then TURN YOUR PHONE OFF. (Yes, that’s in all CAPS). If you MUST leave your phone on, as a common courtesy to others, please turn off your ringer and make sure the vibrating tone is switched OFF.
5. Plan to ask a few questions Prepare and practice potential questions you may want to ask during the networking portion of the event.
6. Post-event follow-up matters
Follow up with an email or LinkedIn message that says "hello" or reminds your new contact about who you are and the event you attended is always a good best practice.
Remember that you give first and don’t expect anything in return.
7. Smile. Smiles are contagious and help in stressful situations. Avoid the hype. Smiling will put you in a very positive mindset.
Networking at events will gradually become easier. Continue practicing for your next event. Please come network with communication industry thought leaders at the Greenlee Summit in Ames on April 6. Learn more and register here: http://bit.ly/2CUsBPK.
Gladys Nortey, Marketing & Program Management Consultant, Iowa State University Greenlee School Advisory Board member. #gladysMarketing