Networking. It’s the buzzword everyone loves (and loves to hate). But even those of us that drag our feet when it comes to attending events and “networking” know just how important it is. I’m what I like to call one of those “introverted extraverts.” When cornered, I turn into a social butterfly. But otherwise, I like to hang out in my cocoon.
Between blogging, college, and my career, I’ve been to my fair share of events. Some of them were more successful than others, but I feel that I’ve picked up on a few tips & tricks that I now live by.
1. Get there on time
I was taught that arriving fashionably late was always the way to go. Being the first person at an event can feel awkward and uncomfortable. And I still agree with that statement if we were talking about a dinner party or a birthday. But for networking events, one of the most intimidating moments is walking into a room full of people that look like they all know each other and you know no one. If you arrive on time you’ll be surrounded by a small group and it’s easier to strike up a conversation.
2. Quality over quantity
You may feel tempted to try and meet an entire room of people at an event. But if you flit from conversation to conversation, you’re not going to have anything in-depth and the relationship will likely fizzle once the event is over. I consider 5 great conversations a success more than 10 casual surface level ones.
3. Follow the 60-40 rule. Talk 60% about them, 40% about you.
I’m a big fan of “active listening” – basically asking questions to delve deeper into the conversation, and learning more about the person you’re talking to. You might be inclined to turn the conversation into the “Me Show.” But if you walk away and realize you did ALL the talking, you won’t know what that potential contact had to offer or if that could have been a good relationship. That’s why I follow the 60-4o rule where I try to spend more time talking about them than about me.
4. Have business cards and your phone available.
I bring a few business cards to every event I attend, even though in this day and age it seems like everything has moved online. More often than not you may run out of cards, forget them, or just not have them. Same with everyone else in the room. But something I have realized? Everyone has Linkedin. A little trick I’ve picked up is keeping my phone handy (but not in your hand because then you might look like another phone-obsessed millennial). At the end of the conversation I’ll say “Let me add you on Linkedin, how do I spell your name?” This is a great in case 1) you’ve forgotten their name and 2) You can continue the conversation online.
5. Follow Up
Let’s say you picked up your new contact’s business card or you added them on LinkedIn. The day after the event send them a quick follow up email (or LinkedIn message) reminding them of your conversation and how great it was to meet them.
What are your networking tips?