With the holidays on our doorstep, so too are numerous luncheons, holiday parties and networking receptions. Whether you're an entrepreneur, looking for a career change, or just trying to keep your name out there, attending functions regularly is essential.
I'm not sure how many people love networking events; I think we all approach them with a degree of apprehension. It's not easy striking up conversations with strangers that you may or may not have anything in common with. But with some engaging questions, active listening and practice, you may find each event gets a little easier.
Here are our top 10 tips for getting the most out of your next networking event:
1. Arrive early (or at least on-time!) — If you arrive late, chances are you'll need to break into an established conversations. Arriving early gives you the opportunity to be in the room when its quieter, and help you get a sense of the tone of the event. I recently attended a networking event where one of the volunteers hadn't arrived, and the organizers were in desperate need for an extra set of hands. I happily helped greet other attendees at the door, which really helped break the ice!
2. Don't be afraid to jump into conversations — be honest and say "I'm new to this group/event, mind if I join you?", or "I overheard you talking about... That's fascinating! Mind if I join you?"
3. Don't be afraid to leave a conversation either! — If you feel that your time is being dominated by the wrong person (perhaps someone who is enjoying the free beverages a little too much!), politely excuse yourself by noticing someone you've been trying to meet, and suggesting you continue the conversation over coffee soon. We've all had to deal with "that guy."
4. Perfect your storytelling — Be able to share what you do in 2-3 sentences, but also make the connection between what you do, and someone else you're chatting with, for example: "I help entrepreneurs streamline their business processes—my clients would look for solutions like John here, who has developed a calendar app that has an intuitive mapping and GPS feature to maximize your time." An opening such as this not just explains what you do, but promotes someone else, and opens the door to an alliance in the future, all while demonstrating how well you're listening to others in the group.
5. Do your research! — Who is likely attending? Does the event have a theme? Read up on some of the companies that might be represented.
6. Tell your story, don't just sell — Engage the people around you with "why" you do what you do, or your journey to where you are now. They'll remember you better and feel connected. The sales pitch will come in time.
7. Look for ways to make introductions — Don't go into a networking event to just sell yourself. Look for ways to promote others. You'll become known for not just what you do, but who you know.
8. Stay curious — ask questions, use the event as an opportunity to learn, not just sell.
9. Networking doesn't end when the event ends — Remember to follow up! Ask for their business card and then make notes about what you gained from the conversation.
10. Always nurture your network — Sort your contacts by geography, not by last name! Why? If you're headed to a specific area and have an hour of time between meetings, check to see who is nearby and invite them for coffee. Let them know that you value the connection.
Peggy Murrah, known best for her work in website design and e-commerce, founded Peggy Murrah & Associates (later becoming PMA Web Services) in 1999. Peggy is also a Social Media authority who coauthored the successful industry "go to" resource, 42 Rules to 24 Hour Success on LinkedIn, an Amazon bestseller. What are your networking tips? What do you look for, or avoid, when seeking networking events to attend? PMA helps business owners find more time. Discover how entrepreneurs have freed themselves from the overwhelm of tech. Download their FREE report at https://pmawebservices.com.© 2017 Peg Murrah
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