Networking events can such be a great way to develop contacts and strong working relationships with people in your industry and in the local business community.
Perhaps you think networking events just aren’t your thing (hello fellow introverts!). Or maybe you aren’t sure how to get started. It can be pretty strange if you are entering this unchartered territory for the first time. Here are 5 networking tips that are super easy to implement.
1. Take your business cards
When you go to your next networking event, take a stack of business cards. Sounds pretty obvious right? Maybe. I have forgotten to take business cards to events. There have also been occasions where I have not taken enough. Don’t be stingy. Grab a whole stack before you go. Keep an emergency stash in your handbag or your car and be ready to give those babies out like your life depends on it.
On the flipside though, you have to be prepared to receive business cards from others. If they aren’t offered, you should ask for them! Business cards are the best way for you to keep track of who you have spoken to. AND they provide contact details so you don’t have to stalk your new friends on the internet to find out their email addresses.
One cheeky trick that I like to use is to discreetly write little reminders on people’s business cards so that I don’t forget who they are. Especially if I have spoken to a whole heap of people at one event. Notes like “pink jacket” or “spoke about Orange is the New Black” are perfect to quickly jog your memory. Dot points about your conversation can be a really good starting point for next time!
2. Set small, realistic networking goals
Do you find it a bit daunting going to a networking event with the expectation that you will come away with loads and loads of new business buddies? Cut yourself some slack and recognise that in reality that is a pretty big ask. Especially if you have any introvert tendencies. By setting yourself some smaller goals, you can work towards and achieve your own level of success at a networking event. And feel really good about it too!
Instead of heading into your next networking event with the aim of speaking to as many people as possible, change things up and aim to make one memorable connection. Spend the networking event looking for one person that you have something in common with. It is a great feeling when you can leave an event knowing that you have started building a really positive relationship. Depending on your behavioural style, it can actually be far more fulfilling than getting 100 business cards.
3. Not all networking events are created equal
Networking events are like bags. There are so many different styles. All with different functionalities. And just like bags, not all networking events will suit you. There are breakfasts, lunches, after work drinks, events with speakers, events with forums and some with a focus on networking itself. Why is this important?
Don't be afraid to test a few different networking groups to find the people who you really vibe with. And remember that events through the same organisation run at different times, will attract different kinds of people. For example, you won't be seeing me at any of those events that start before the sun comes up...
4. Have your elevator pitch ready, but remember you're not a robot
Do you have an elevator pitch? An elevator pitch is a short spiel that you could present in the duration of an elevator ride. It's a clever trick to allow you to quickly and concisely tell someone about yourself. You don’t have long to make a first impression, so you want your elevator pitch to be well articulated but not too stiff – practiced but not overly practiced. You know what I mean?
Get crafting your elevator pitch now and practice, practice, practice! Try recording yourself and see if you can pick up the points you are struggling with. Work on sounding as natural as you can. And practice on people too! Next time someone asks you what you do, whip out your elevator pitch with pride. No more fumbling to explain your business or defining yourself by a job title!
5. Follow through
You can follow all of my other tips until you are blue in the face, but it won’t mean much if you don’t follow through. This can sometimes be a little scary. Especially if you have any self-doubt. You might be wondering – “what if they don’t remember me?”, “what if they aren’t interested?”, “what if they think I am a weirdo for getting in touch?” I get it. But your new contacts are not real contacts if you don’t make contact with them!
It's totally possible to connect with people without any awkwardness. This is the digital age, so send an email or a message on LinkedIn! In fact, most people would prefer you to connect via one of these methods as it means that they can respond to you in their own time and they aren’t caught off guard.
Best of luck! We'd love to have you join us at one of our BizCBR networking events.
* A version of this post was originally published on Pop Your Career.