Networking events can range from corporate galas to dinners to a happy hour event (sip safely) and, while they may not have the title “networking event,” they are the best way to meet new people who can potentially help you excel professionally. Countless people have benefited from making face-to-face contact in business settings. Truth be told, networking can occur at any given moment and one should always be ready to make a great impression.
Now, we’re not going to lie to you; sometimes networking events can be so dull that they can make a two-hour stay in a doctor’s waiting room look like Miami Beach with a crowd dancing to “Teach Me How To Dougie“. Then again, some events can actually be fun. Plus, the ability to network is an essential tool for success, so try to attend as many functions as possible and allow yourself time to become comfortable talking to a variety of people.
Networking is vital in order to make new contacts, build relationships, and get your name out there. Many people have discovered “unposted” career opportunities (of legal nature of course) after making good impressions with those they were able to network with.
By meeting other working professionals, you’re presented with the opportunity to expand your business or convince employers and contacts to get into business with you.
To that end, here are a few things to keep in mind when attending a networking event:
First, don’t be so anxious. These events are created for the purpose of getting like-minded people together and can be some of the most relaxed settings where business can be done.
Don’t be self-conscious. The less seriously you take yourself, the greater the chance that you’ll actually have fun. Yes fun…it is possible, especially when you work the room. That being said, unlike “posting up” in the club (staying in one spot), working the room is strongly encouraged.
Now, once you start talking to folks, keep in mind that you can make better acquaintances if you spend more time showing interest in others versus getting others interested in you. People love to talk about themselves (… and this one time, at band camp), particularly when someone is interested, so ask questions about people’s business – i.e. what they do, how they got started, what they love about their job, etc. You can even get a little personal by asking about their families and passions.
The goal at a networking event is to make a connection. The majority of these connections are rooted in career; however, you just may make a good friend in the process. It sure beats stalking people from high school on Facebook.
Be sure to bring your business cards and a pen. When exchanging cards, be sure to take a few seconds to observe someone’s card and even acknowledge something from it. The content on a business card is a source of pride for many people, the last thing you want to do is insult them by stuffing it away like someone’s demo music cd that you know you aren’t going to listen to. Next, be sure to write any interesting comments or takeaways from your conversation with that person on their card so you can reference it later i.e. John Doe thinks Prince was better than Michael, (We at Urban Professor do not share this sentiment).
Also, have an effective 15 to 30 second pitch for you or your business ready, as someone could be looking for the exact service you provide, so be ready to present yourself when prompted.
Take a friend or work colleague along with you to a networking event. You can help introduce each other to new people. It will also help you feel a lot less awkward than showing up to an event alone, think of them as a “networking wingman”, kind of like your Scottie Pippen for career connections.
Speaking of new people, don’t wait around for anyone to come to you, If you’re shy, don’t worry. There are still things you can do to be noticed and effectively network, too, standing there doing the “John Wall” in a suit isn’t one of them.
After the event, send a thank you note/email to all of your new contacts (See our past article Money in the Thank). Schedule follow-up meetings with those you feel you made a strong connection with.
So listen, Maury Povich can wait. You already know he’s going to tell that dude he’s not the father anyhow. So, get up and get out there to make the right contacts to help you make real moves. U Define Success