Some people enjoy networking, others find it nerve wracking. Either way most people will have to network as part of their job or career path. Remember networking is not about selling or pinning people down. Instead demonstrate empathy, be yourself and try and help people.
Networking has many benefits, it creates a network of people who can support one another, bounce ideas off of, find solutions to problems and can also help with career progression. By networking effectively, you are more like to hear about new opportunities, including jobs that might not be advertised, you are also more likely to be recommended by your peers to others regarding jobs.
How to network effectively
Before the event you should set yourself your goals. For example, how many people do you want to speak to? Ask the organiser for a list of delegates prior to the event, decided who you want to speak to and research them. LinkedIn is great for this research and finding common interests which can become great topics of discussion. If appropriate drop them a message on LinkedIn or email them before the event to arrange to meet there.
It is a good idea to talk to people before the main event, such as at the drinks reception, many people will rush off as soon as the event has finished and don’t always stay for networking after. Standing near the buffet or bar is a good area to talk to people. Approach people either on their own or in big groups to avoid breaking in to private conversations, and ensure you are wearing your name tag so they can clearly see who you are. It is also useful to introduce yourself by repeating your name, eg as ‘Joe, Joe Smith’ The repetition will help your name sink in and they are more likely to remember you.
If you have already met someone, remind them who you are and continue from your last conversation. If you recognise someone, but can’t remember who they are, say ‘I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I’m [name]’.
If someone you are talking to knows someone else you would like to meet, ask them if they would introduce you. It is always easier to be introduced, as the introduction often opens a conversation.
When talking to people, ask open-ended ‘why’ conversations to create conversation, get them to talk about themselves and listen to their answers. If the event is starting and you run out of time, ask to finish the conversation later or get contact details so you can continue at a later date. Ensure you have business cards to hand to give to people.
In case an opportunity does arise to talk about yourself and what you do, have an ‘elevator pitch’ ready. This should include who you are, who you work for and why you or your organisation is special. This should be no more than a couple of sentences.
If you are at an event that involves a talk, ask questions when prompted at the end and ensure you introduce yourself to tell people who you are.
After the event, mark down who you have spoken to and ensure you contact them via LinkedIn or email within 48 hours, while you are still fresh in their minds. If you did not manage to speak to someone on your list, send them a message after. Mention that you were at the event and talk about something interesting you learnt at the event. If you are on Twitter, post a tweet, using any relevant hashtags the event used, so people can see you were there. If appropriate you could mention the people you met in this tweet.
Networking gets easier with practice, so network as much as possible. You can find some more useful networking advice on the following websites:
Social Media Examiner - Networking LinkedIn Groups
Alexswallow - my first podcast how to network