Getting ready to network
I’ve made it to three networking events in the past month. It’s been rewarding and so much more fun to meet with real people in real life rooms (safely), rather than trying to replicate the feeling of connecting with other humans, virtually.
I’m really glad I went. Because if you’re anything like me, you might look at networking like going for a run...most days you’d rather not!
While you know it’s going to be useful and that once you’ve got through the first 5 minutes you’ll be flying, at the time it requires a super human effort to get into that energised, connecter-mood. A bit like the super human effort needed to drag yourself off the sofa and go for a run.
So, I thought I’d share a few tips that have helped me stir myself into networking readiness and which I’ve been practising recently. Here they are:
1) Think about what it is you want to achieve from attending the event, and who you’re looking to connect with once you’re there (it helps if there’s an attendee list shared in advance to do some strategic planning here).
2) If you’re feeling nervous, make this all about the other people you’re going to meet rather than about you. Focus on asking questions and learning about them. As someone once said, “to be interesting, be interested.”
3) If it’s the first time you’re attending an event and they’re offering a “buddy system”, take advantage of it! It gives you a head start in making contacts and will help you feel more comfortable when you arrive.
4) If you’re given a name tag at registration, instead of putting your company name and official job title, consider something more catchy that’ll provoke a question or a comment, or write 3 words that best describe yourself.
5) Use opportunities where you’re queuing up (registration, at the bar, the Ladies…) to introduce yourself to other people and get talking. I’ve found it’s one of the least awkward ways of starting a conversation!
6) Instead of “what do you do”? try “are you working on anything exciting at the moment” or “what’s keeping you busy?”
As one of my friends said recently, networking is like internet dating. Once you get going, it’s actually far less painful than you thought it would be. It's also the same for the other person, they’re there because they want to meet someone, so unless you put yourself out there, you won't meet anyone!
So, jump in, embrace the newness and don’t forget your business cards!