Simone Pelly writes about the challenges of being a young manager. In this post, she looks at how to make the most of networking events.
The thought of networking can send many people into panic mode. Few words (I can only think of “marriage”, “babies”, “tax” and “public speaking”) evoke a similar emotional response.
I believe you should be networking no matter what your role. Get out and meet new people, make new contacts, speak to others in the business community about you are and what you do. As I said in my last blog, face-to-face meetings are slowly dying off. Remove that electronic device that is almost one of your limbs, break routine and get out there and meet people in person!
You never know who you will meet. If you keep an open mind you might meet a great business contact, supplier, mentor, come across a new job opportunity, make a new friend or meet your future partner… who knows, the possibilities are endless if you are open to them.
There are some great networking events out there. Most have the benefit of also showcasing great presenters or panel discuss that can add value to you and your business. What a great icebreaker to discuss the topic of the evening with your fellow networkers. Ask them about their opinions on the presentation, what they hoped to get out of the evening and how they’ll use those lessons in their business.
We all need to remember that everyone at networking events is in the same boat. Everyone is there to make new contacts, and you need to be able to interject groups and introduce yourself to strangers. Most people are very welcoming, as this is the purpose of event and they appreciate your efforts.
There will also be the occassional cold person, or non-conversationalist and about three people who seem to know everyone (they are the ones that have been going to the same networking events for 20 years). Don’t let either of these types of people deter you.
Setting a goal (i.e. speaking to three new people) before a networking event is a great idea. I am always very keen to exchange business cards. We get thousands of them printed for a reason, right? So give them out! Asking for someone’s business card is key. It makes the other person know you have valued meeting them and you want to be in touch in the future. This is also a great way to wrap up, as you can now get in touch in the further.
Remember you’re at a networking event and you want to circulate the room and meet as many different people as possible. Try and make established connections and build good rapport and then move on.
I always follow up after a networking event with a “nice to meet you” email, which is also a great chance to also recap any opportunities discussed that evening. This also provides your new contacts with your details electronically, never to be lost again!
So it looks scary, but really we are all in this together. GET NETWORKING!