Nailing Networking Nights
I recently had the pleasure of helping networking newbies prepare to attend their first industry networking event. Not surprisingly, I had a few things to say and then I realized that again this is something that people never prepare you for in your career.
Top Ways to Nail Networking
- Make medium talk not small talk: I absolutely hate talking about the weather. It is boring. Even with the ups and downs we are having and melting of the universe in general. It is still boring. Challenge yourself to talk about things that are in line with the group you are meeting. Start conversations with questions about the content for the event or about the host or about the organization.
- Be interesting: Scan the news for talking points and conversation starters. I find following Fast Company Magazine on social media and listening to the HBR Ideacast to be the best shortcuts for being in the know. Both sources give me plenty of material to share and ask others about. Stay away from anything too controversial (See my post about 30 stories!) No need to be a know-it-all so don't monopolize the conversation. Use it to ask questions and start a dialogue. This will also give you something to help people remember you by. (See #7)
- Don't belly up to the bar or the buffet: Wine is a fantastic lubricant for awkward situations but only in small amounts. As a rule, never drink more than the person you are talking too especially if you are doing it to calm your nerves. It's fine to eat at these events but remember that you are going to want to be hands free to shake hands or share business cards
- Be inclusive: If you see a loner standing by him or herself, make an effort to include them in your discussion. This is just good karma. You will be happy for someone to do that for you when you are the one flying solo
- No wolf packs: Don't be a wolf pack if you attend with friends or colleagues. You may want to pair off into groups of two but no more than that because then you are too hard to approach and you look clique-y.
- Dress memorably: Take this advice with the intent it is given. This doesn't mean to dress outlandishly but it does help to wear a pattern or color or signature necklace to make you approachable. It is so easy to tell someone you love their awesome red boots and have that be the start of a longer dialogue
- Stay top of mind: Follow up with an email or LinkedIn request (with a personal note!) by 10am the following day so that you are fresh in people's memories. You can jog their memory by referencing a conversation or mentioning you were the one in the red boots!
- Think forward: Write thank you email to the organizers and volunteer for future events
What else is a networking "do" or "don't"? Please add to my list