It’s always a good idea to go to networking events…but turning up is only the beginning. It can sometimes be difficult to know exactly what to do once you’re there, so here are a few ideas to help you make the most of every networking event.
Bring business cards: print more than you think you’ll need and make sure all the relevant information is on them (if you’re not sure what to include, here are some tips) so that people know who you are, what you do and how to find you when they look back on it later. This bit’s really important – you don’t want to make a great connection with someone only to find you’ve run out of business cards, and leave them with nothing to remember you by!
Introduce yourself: don’t be afraid to make the first move; introduce yourself to people by making eye contact, smiling, telling them your first and last names and giving a firm handshake. (If the thought of having to make small talk puts you off, here’s a quick guide to help you brush up on your small talk skills.) Listen carefully to their name, and when you’re parting ways it doesn’t hurt to ask them to confirm that you’ve got their name right: better to do it now then get it wrong in the future.
Show interest in other people’s jobs: the best way to show interest is by asking questions, preferably open questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. But don’t just go through a list of the same questions with each new person; once they’ve answered you, build off what they’ve said and tailor the conversation to their answers.
Tell them what you do: as important as it is to show your interest in what the other person does, don’t forget to let them know what you do too! Try to keep this concise and to-the-point, ideally summing up what you do in a couple of sentences.
Follow up after the event: you don’t want to be forgotten, so after a few days, send an email to the people you want to stay in touch with saying you enjoyed meeting them. Make sure each email feels personal to the recipient – nothing generic or impersonal as this will put people off. A good way to make a follow-up email more personal is by mentioning something that you talked about in person. You can find a template for such emails here.
Take notes: many networking events have speakers, and it’s well worth taking notes so you don’t forget the things they say. They’re often experts in their area so they know what they’re talking about. But also take notes after one-to-one conversations you have; you’re going to talk to a lot of people, and it will be hard to remember who said what. Taking notes will make it easier to remember what you discussed with each person when it comes to writing those follow-up emails.
But the most important thing to remember is go to networking events. You can’t do any of the above if you’re not actually attending events where you can meet people. While the thought of attending such events may be intimidating or feel like a lot of hassle, it won’t be so bad once you’re there and it will definitely be worth it in the long run. So find some events and get going!