Networking… there’s that word again, considered essential if you want to increase your profile, connect with like minded individuals, improve your knowledge on a particular subject or if you’re looking to change careers. It really is a most effective avenue to take but it also can bring up a sense of bewilderment, anxiety and fear, especially if you don’t consider yourself an outgoing person or an extrovert. But you don’t have to be any of those things to be successful at networking. The hardest thing really is getting yourself to a networking event the very first time, after which each successive event will get easier. To help you along, below I’ve outlined my 6 tips to networking effectively.
1. Meetup.com This is a great site to get started with when looking for networking events in your area of interest. It is very easy to navigate, just type in the type of event you’re after and the area you’re in and then browse the groups that are already available within your specifications. You can join as many as you like and you’ll be notified when their next meet up or event takes place. You can also start your own group if you’re so inclined.
2. Prepare your elevator speech beforehand. Before heading to a networking event it’s a good idea to prepare what you’ll say to people as you meet them. Having a concise, to the point blurb about yourself that lasts no longer than 20 seconds will leave a more memorable and positive impression of you rather than bumbling your way through when you’re put on the spot when somebody asks what you do. Stating your name, what you do for a living and what you hope to get out of the event will suffice.
3. It’s all about your body language. Being in a room full of people you don’t know can be intimidating and make you feel self conscious but standing in a dark corner hoping no one will notice you clearly defeats the purpose. So, stand up straight, head held high and smile. If you don’t know where to put your hands then carry around a drink (doesn’t necessarily have to be alcoholic). I assure you that you won’t be the only one feeling a little awkward so when you make eye contact with someone introduce yourself, they’ll most likely be grateful that you did.
4.Dress to impress, yes…but be comfortable. Your first networking event is not the time to experiment with your new super high stiletto heels when you haven’t worn heels in 3 years. I’m not saying not to wear heels at all but to instead wear a pair you’ve worn before. It would be very difficult to appear confident and approachable when your hobbling around developing blisters. The same goes for your clothes, you want your main priority to be achieving whatever it is that brought you to the event in the first place, not preventing a wardrobe malfunction.
5.Don’t take a friend. No, that’s not a typo, the reason is simple really. By taking someone with you for moral support may prevent you from meeting new people. The only time that I would think it ok to take a friend is if you attend an event that is in both your best interests. Then I would suggest going your separate ways once you get there and then debriefing about it at the end as to what each of you got out of it. Of course, you may find that you see familiar faces that you may become friendly with as you attend subsequent events. But that is the whole point, meeting people that can help you in what is is you want to achieve by attending these events.
6. Just do it. It really is a simple as that. Once you attend your first one, you’ll see that they really aren’t that scary and the more you attend the easier they become. Networking events differ greatly in the amount of people that attend so best to pick one that maybe has less than 30 people attending as your first one.
There you have it, hopefully these tips have given you an idea on how to get through them. If you have any tips that you find helpful please let me know below, I would love to hear them.