For many of us, the idea of networking can be a total nightmare – it’s never easy to walk into a room full of strangers and introduce yourself. But don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience, even if you’re an introvert. Follow these steps to navigate your next networking event like a pro (and get some killer contacts in the process).
1. Arrive early. The temptation is probably to show up late and avoid an awkward first-person-here situation. But, actually, showing up early is a much better strategy. If you’re one of the first people to arrive, it will be a lot calmer – nobody will have settled into groups yet, and talking to new people will be a lot easier. Go for the ones who also don’t have conversation partners yet.
2. Ask interesting questions. It’s a fact that people love to talk about themselves when given the opportunity. A great way to get to know someone is by asking genuine, thoughtful questions. Remember, it’s better to walk away from a conversation in which the other person has spoken more than you rather than less. You’ll leave them with a good impression.
3. But keep the questions simple. Don’t hit them with the tough ones straight off the bat. They may be colleagues, but keep things light and friendly at first. A simple, ‘What brings you to this event?’ is the perfect opener – as long as you listen carefully to the responses. Conversation will flow easier than you think if you aren’t hitting them with a sales pitch.
4. Share your passion. You have something in common with everyone in the room – you’re in the same field of work. Leave a lasting impression by sharing a story that reflects the passion you have for some aspect of your job. Talking about what you enjoy draws people into your space, and will prompt them to share their own.
5. Don’t feel like you have to ‘work the room’. You’re not engaged in some sort of challenge to talk to as many people as humanly possible. Focus on making a few solid connections instead of spreading yourself thin across every person in the room. People can tell when you’re only making conversation in hopes of an exchange of business cards.
6. Share personal stories. They’re what make you memorable. If someone mentions a place, bring up the time you travelled there. It’s bound to make for more interesting conversation than they’re used to. You become someone real and interesting, instead of just another person in a power suit.
7. Follow up. The whole point of networking is to follow up on the conversations, and you shouldn’t wait until people have forgotten about you to do it. Hit up some of the people you met with personalised follow-up emails or calls – at most two days after meeting.
This post was sponsored by Kellogg’s.