We’ve all been there; standing at the side of an event hoping someone will strike up a conversation with us. Perhaps you’re the person hovering around the coffee machine or waiting outside until the very last moment? Networking events can be daunting, but they can also be a great way to challenge you to become an even better version of who you are now.
Think of it this way, everyone is attending a networking event for the same reason; they’re looking to gain something. People are there to make connections, to chit chat about work and maybe a sales pitch here and there about you or your business. If you are attending these events and not putting anything into them, you’re not going to get anything back. By making the first move and approaching people, it will not only put other people at ease, it will also help you to stand out.
“Everyone is already engaged in conversation, I don’t know where to begin.”
Walk around the room with your head held high and if anyone makes eye contact, be sure to acknowledge them with a smile or a hello. If people are stood in circles and already engaged in conversation, don’t push your way in. If you can enter a conversation without having to ask anyone to move, join them, listen and simply ask a question to the person speaking about their thoughts on the topic. It shows you have an interest in what they have to say and helps to keep the conversation flowing.
“I’m not good at making small talk. I don’t know what to talk about.”
Approaching someone at a networking event and asking “How are you?” is a frequent conversation starter but it can be a conversation killer, too. If like most of us, you often respond with “Yes, I’m great. How are you?” the conversation won’t really lead anywhere. However, what if you were to ask “How was your week?” instead? The possibilities for a conversation can lead anywhere at this point. You find out more information about them and what they do, plus it gives you an opportunity to ask more questions.
“I never hear back from anyone I meet.”
When you get back from a networking event, send thank you emails to everyone you met. You don’t need a sales pitch or any superfluous speech. Simply let them know you had a great time meeting them and that they can reach out to you if they ever need any help. Keep it short and sweet. If you want to keep a dialogue going, try sending a follow up email a few weeks later. It can be something as simple as “Hey, I just read this article and thought it was a great conclusion to our conversation at the event.”
“I try to speak to so many people at these events, I leave feeling overwhelmed.”
Keep in mind that quality over quantity is always the best solution with networking events. You don’t need to talk to everyone in the room. Go to the event with a goal in mind. Maybe you want to leave with 5 business cards or give out 10 of your own? It can be something as simple as holding conversations with 3 different people. Whatever your goal is, work towards it. If you are tied into a conversation and you’re missing out on your goal of chatting with others, politely excuse yourself and ask to continue the conversation on email.
Networking doesn’t come easy to everyone. The key things to remember are to ask questions, listen and look for ways to help people. What are your experiences with networking events? Share your thoughts in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.
Laura Pell – Recruiter at Artisan Creative