Networking events are great for meeting new people, learning from interesting speakers or leaders, better preparing yourself as a professional, and making yourself known, but this doesn’t mean they’re easy. There are several traps you can fall into during these types of events. Introducing yourself to people you don’t know can be overwhelming, and knowing what you want to get out of a networking event can be confusing (a contact card? A job?). To eliminate ambiguity (and awkwardness) before your next event, take a look at these 5 tips, which will help you succeed the next time you find yourself in a room full of future LinkedIn connections.
1. Make a Plan
You would never go to a business meeting without doing your research first. So why not apply the same methodology before attending a networking event? Prepare an action plan for the event in advance. Set some goals so you know exactly what you want to get out of the event. These goals may include, for example, making sure you speak to a specific number of people, or introducing yourself to certain people that you know will be attending the event. Sites like Meetup.com often include public guest lists that allow you to easily see who you’ll be networking with and do a Google search. By being prepared, you demonstrate a greater degree of responsibility and ensure that you make the most of the opportunity.
2. Get out of your Comfort Zone
These days it is not very often that we walk into a room full of strangers alone and strike up a conversation. However, we must. We all have a tendency (myself included) to go with one or two friends and talk to them all afternoon, or let them do the introductions. Instead, use this time as an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone. Get close to people and introduce yourself. It seems overwhelming, but remember that everyone is there to network. Ultimately, you are in control of your career and it is important that you be self-sufficient and independent.
3. Ask a Question
Depending on the format of the event, questions are usually invited at some point, especially if there is a keynote speaker or discussion. This is a great opportunity for personal public relations. It is very likely that the room is full of colleagues from your sector or a sector in which you would like to work. So you can introduce yourself and test the speaker’s knowledge (kindly, of course). Speakers want to discuss the topics they have discussed. Raise your hand shamelessly.
Whether you have more than 50 or more than 500 connections on LinkedIn, you’ve likely created a professional network of contacts who are interested in similar topics and events. That is why LinkedIn is the perfect platform to share links to event pages, upcoming meetings, and even photos and reflections on an event you’ve recently attended. If you see something that you find interesting or could be interesting for your network, share it.
Businesses generally host events to give back to the community, build awareness of their brand, and share ideas, but they also expect each event to be better than the last. There is ALWAYS room for improvement. You need to provide feedback on all aspects of an event, from food to format. If something did not seem acceptable or you think it can be improved, say so. In some cases, companies send a survey after the event is over. If not, please email the organizer to thank and provide some constructive feedback. These events are focused on the attendees, and your feedback is essential so that they remain relevant and meet your expectations.