Published 18 October 2017 Category: Compass Tips

Navigating Networking Events

To make the most effective use of your time at an event, prepare in advance to be sure you connect with the people who might be most helpful to you. Take time to think about your goals for the event, what information you’d like to gain, who you hope to talk with, specific questions to ask and what you hope people learn about you.

If you are just starting out on your networking journey, try to attend as many local networking groups as you can, and talk to other members. Work out which one feels right for you. Where you enjoy the setup and culture. Make sure that you can attend regularly, so ensure that it fits around your business and lifestyle too. Pick interest over industry.

And importantly, work out whether you get on with the people there. Although you don’t always have to get on with everyone in business; the people around you at networking events are going to be important. They are the people who might work with you, or may refer their contacts to you. So being able to build strong relationships with them is going to be integral to your networking success.

Take advantage of sites like Meetup, Eventbrite, Chattybrain and the like for networking events.

Once you’re in, commit. Turn up regularly. Learn from experienced members how to get the most from the events. And stick at it. Networking isn’t an overnight fix. Put the effort in and you can speed the process up.

Some handy tips include:

Know the topic or theme of the event and ask if there is an expected attendee list.

Keep your business cards at the ready.

Leave your right hand available for handshakes.

Carry a beverage only. Mingle a bit and then get a bit of food and eat with others who are eating. The focus is on networking here.

Pay attention to your body language. You want to appear relaxed, confident and interested in talking with others. Concentrate on attentive listening; it’s not all about you and your questions.

Take the initiative to approach people standing alone and strike up a conversation.

Enter a conversation by walking up, smiling, listening for a minute, waiting for a pause and then introducing yourself.

Invite others into your conversation. If you see someone trying to enter your conversation, welcome them and take initiative to introduce others. Identify a common thread you share with them.

Spend no more than 4-7 minutes in the conversation, then move on. Say, “Thank you. It was a pleasure meeting you. May I contact you in the future and if so, what is the best way to do so?” Don’t be surprised if someone in a high-level position doesn’t want to give out their business card in the first meeting.

Don’t be afraid to say, “Excuse me, I see someone else I would like to talk to.”

Focus on introductions and relationships, not selling.

When in doubt, ask questions about the other person. People appreciate a good listener.

Have something to discuss. Read a newspaper before the event.

Dress appropriately. Despite what you may see and hear from colleagues, employers and entrepreneurs do expect a certain level of professional dress at a networking event.

Practice your professional handshake with eye contact — not too firm, not too limp.

Follow up. Follow the advice you are given and report back to your contact. Develop the relationship by keeping in touch over time.

Ask for referrals. Ask each person you meet if there is anyone else they think you should contact.

And lastly, if the event includes a meal, practice proper dining etiquette and try to mingle a bit before and after the meal. Talk with several people at the table.

Networking is an important way to find jobs, meet the who’s who and establish a human connection. Over 75% of jobs are gained by word-of-mouth or through referrals. Using your contacts allows you to tap into the hidden job market, gain insights and navigate networking events effectively.