Networking, the word we have all come to dread.
Along with public speaking and interviews, networking is definitely on the top of my list of ‘Things that I hate to do, but I have to’.
It just doesn’t feel natural trying to connect with strangers at first sight.
Well, turns out, I’m not alone. If you’re reading this now, you probably share the same sentiments.
And this is precisely the purpose of this article today.
No, this article is not going to turn you into a networking god.
But I believe that this article will give you a better idea on how to approach networking events.
I started writing this article with the intention for it to act as a guide for myself, giving me tips and pointers to keep in mind as I go for networking events in future.
Now, I would also like to share these tips with you, to help all of us become more ready and confident in these networking events.
As the old saying goes,
With good preparation, half the (networking) battle is won.
Just like how preparing for an interview is paramount, preparing for networking is no different.
While you cannot prepare for many unforeseen situations, what you can do is prepare for common situations that come up in most networking events. Here are a few that you can explore:
1. Giving Your Self-introduction
A self-introduction is definitely the first thing to prepare.
As you first meet a potential connection, it is important to introduce yourself and your work succinctly and interestingly. The last thing you would want to do is to bore the listener as you rattle on about all your life stories!
You can take reference from these few questions while crafting your self introduction:
- What are your skills and specialties?
- What interesting work have you done thus far?
- What are some of your future plans in your career?
2. Preparing Insightful Questions
Of course, a meaningful conversation cannot be a one-sided monologue from your part.
You will also need to ask good questions to spark the connection’s interest, and to explore his/her skills and background as well.
If this sounds like a tall order, consider some of these questions to help you along:
- What do you enjoy most in your work?
- What are some of your future career plans?
- What is the most challenging part of your work?
3. Research industry trends
Suppose that you are going for an networking event on the E-commerce industry. Most of the participants there will be in touch with the latest news and trends of the industry.
Naturally, the best way to connect is to talk about these topics of interest to them!
These can be great conversation starters that allow you to dig deeper and learn more insights from an industry insider.
Furthermore, demonstrating knowledge in these industry trends also reflect how invested you are in the industry.
Your ability to introduce and discuss these topics well will definitely leave a lasting impression amongst connections.
4. Game plan
If you go into the session blindly, you might often find yourself aimlessly wandering about.
This aimlessness can be rather draining and discouraging, and you might find yourself leaving the event earlier than expected.
A useful way to resolve this is to develop a networking game plan beforehand.
As many of us are goal-oriented, a good way to do this is by developing manageable goals to work towards. Here are some that you can consider:
This helps to provide a direction to work towards, and likely spurs greater focus on reaching the goals you set for yourself.
Now that you have gotten all the preparation out of the way, you are ready for the main event: the networking event itself. What should you take note of during the event?
5. Early bird gets the worm
A common worry when going for networking events is seeing many groups of people already engaging in active conversations.
It can be hard to try and join in and participate in the conversation naturally, so you might find yourself out of the circle.
An easy fix would simply be arriving to the networking event earlier!
This way, you can start smaller, more meaningful conversations before all the hustle and bustle begins. You will also have less competition for people’s attention and interest!
With so much prior preparation (see above), it would be understandable if you wanted to share everything about yourself and what you know to your potential connections.
But relationship building is a two-way street.
To build a meaningful relationship during the networking, you need to be genuinely curious about what the other party has to say as well.
Only by listening fully, can you also ask meaningful questions that will actually benefit yourself.
Probe into his/her experiences, lessons and other details that you normally will not have access to.
7. Asking for his/her contact
After having a good time sharing both your stories, do not forget this one last vital note: Asking for the connections contact details.
This is possibly the only way for you to continue and build this professional relationship even outside of networking events.
Do give the person options to choose from, so that he/she can give you a means to contact that he/she is comfortable with. This can range from mobile numbers, email addresses, or even adding on LinkedIn, just to name a few.
After the networking event, give yourself a nice pat on the back if you did manage to achieve the goals you initially set.
But the work doesn’t stop there.
8. Take notes
After talking to many connections, it can be hard to keep track of all the new names, new faces and all the topics discussed.
As the conversations are still fresh in your head, jot down some notes to help yourself structure your thoughts, and keep track of your discussions.
9. Follow up
As the memories and impressions you made are still fresh in your mind, take time to follow up with the new connections made during the networking event within 1-2 days.
You can remind them of yourself and the topics you discussed. You can also remind them of the problems he/she was sharing, and perhaps offer valuable insights to these problems that they might be facing.
Hope these tips have helped you better understand what to expect at networking events, and what to keep in mind before going for one.
Remember to go with an open heart. Try to learn and explore new areas you are unfamiliar with, and build genuine connections in the process!
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