I don’t know how you feel but even now after years of doing it I still get nervous when I go to networking events. I think it’s just the word ‘networking’ that seems scary and it’s silly to feel that way really because these events can be really enjoyable and useful for career development. So how can we become more effective at managing them?
Assuming that you are dressed appropriately and have adequate levels of personal hygiene (believe me some networkers don’t) there are four simple things you could be doing to make yourself a better networker.
Thing one: rehearse Speech You
Before you meet your next potential employer take 10 minutes to stand in front of the mirror practicing a 30 second speech about yourself that sums up why you should be the next head of marketing (or whatever you would like to be). What is it that you are good at? What do you want from a job? Why are you so great? It’s ok to feel like a prat at this stage as it’s only you that can hear your rehearsal. Get that prat-feeling out of the way so that when you come to say Speech You for real you sound like a confident, driven individual who would fit nicely in any marketing team.
Thing two: don’t take a friend
It sounds so simple but people that attend networking events with friends or colleagues invariably end up not speaking to anyone else. People are a lot less intimidating when they are on their own and others will feel reluctant to approach you when you are already engaged in talk with another. Also, make sure you wear your name badge; it’s a lot easier to strike up a conversation with a new buddy when you can start it off by saying “Oh, (insert organisation name here), I used to know someone that worked there…” It also prevents embarrassment when you can’t remember the name of the person you just met.
Thing three: take a chance and introduce yourself
So what’s the worst that can happen? The people that attend networking events are professionals in your field meaning you already have something in common. If it turns out you have no chemistry with your new found networking friend then move on to the next. Why not practice introducing yourself as part of Speech You? It doesn’t hurt to get used to the sound of your own voice so that when you are in that 0.7 of a second that it takes to make a first impression (or however short it is), you do so in a way that has a long lasting positive effect.
Thing four: know why you attended in the first place
Are you on the hunt for a new job? Do you have a problem you’d like some opinions on? Are you just there for the coffee (God help you if you are)? Be clear on what you want to achieve by attending networking events. This will help with Speech You and introducing yourself. It will also help you decide which events will be beneficial. Try and find out who else is there before you walk the room. Prioritise your contacts before you get stuck talking to someone that’s no use to you. Choose events that will enhance your marketing knowledge or those on an area you’d like to work in, in the future.
Above all, be yourself and enjoy the experience. Practised networkers will see through a fake you in a moment. Let your personality speak for itself and you’ll make the contacts that are right for you.