We’ve all been there. Scanning the room with wide-eyes, nervously fidgeting with your shirt sleeve and taking in a room full of professionals donning name tags, unsure of where to even begin. According to a global survey conducted by LinkedIn, 85% of professionals consider networking important to career success, while one-third of professionals still struggle with how to build lasting connections.
Whether you’re trying to develop your personal career, expand your knowledge in an industry or establish new business relationships, it’s important to know how to network, and how to network well.
This blog will help you navigate those uncomfortable face-to-face networking situations so you’ll be ready to dive into the crowd and start building those strong relationships.
Prepare Conversation Starters
Prior to attending an event, brush up on industry news and trends so you’re prepared to engage in insightful conversation and gather other individual’s thoughts on topics you find interesting. Feeling prepared with relevant conversation starters will help relieve any awkwardness and give you that boost of confidence to approach people.
Have Clear Goals in Mind to Accomplish
Do a little research before attending an event. If an attendee list is available, do a quick scan through the list of people or companies to make note of who you want to meet. Once you’ve narrowed down your list, research these individuals to feel well-rehearsed on who they are and what they’re doing in the industry. Narrowing down the list of attendees will help to make the room full of people feel much smaller and building valuable relationships more achievable.
Are you looking to meet an industry leader who would serve as a great mentor? Do you want to spread awareness about your business? Having clear goals in mind will make networking less intimidating and lead to more effective connections.
Ask Meaningful Questions
When you’ve run out of small talk, it’s easy for a conversation to spiral downward. Avoid any lengths of silence by making the person you are speaking with the topic of conversation. Showing genuine interest in another person and their industry experience says more about you than talking about yourself ever could. Not only does this keep the conversation running smoothly, but it gives you great insight into learning about the individual and their industry experience!
Wrapping up the Conversation
Whether it’s to move your business forward, introduce yourself to a hiring manager, or add a valuable contact for future reference, there’s a reason why you attended a networking event in the first place.
Consider the classic job interview question, “Why should we hire you over the other candidates?” and how you would answer that question. You would pull a detailed and accurate answer of the traits and experience that you exemplify that would prove you are the best choice.
To relate this to what your end motive is when networking, be firm on what you’re requesting but clear that what you want is mutually beneficial.
Exiting the Conversation
It’s important to remember that networking is not speed dating—it’s about making valuable connections rather than meeting as many people as you can.
If you find yourself in a conversation lull, approach your exit by showing that you’re engaged in the conversation but have to move along. Saying something like, “Please let me know how that campaign goes, I’d love to hear how it turns out!” shows that you paid attention to the conversation before you walk away and you still left that lasting impression to follow-up with you. Also asking, “Have you seen anyone from ___ tonight? I’ve been meaning to speak with them!” will show your interest in expanding your network.
Not every person you strike up a conversation with is going to leave you with amazing results, but it’s crucial to remember to thank each individual for their time and follow-up with them because you never know who you may run into or who you may need advice from in the future.