Do you think networking is a chore? Do you hate attending networking events and would rather spend time reading a book?
Relax…You are not alone! Many of us feel awkward in such situations – it is just that some people are better at hiding their insecurities better than others!
According to Susan Cain’s TED Talk on “Power of Introverts” almost 50% of US Workforce self identifies as introverts!
In fact, many of the most well-known entrepreneurs and business leaders are either self-proclaimed introverts or display a number of introverted qualities. It is to introverts – Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, J.K. Rowling, Steven Spielberg and many others that we owe great contributions to the society.
However in today’s connected world, networking is inevitable for both corporate workforce as well as for entrepreneurs and hence sooner or later you need to embrace networking! Networking when done the right way, can help you forge deep connections which in turn can enhance your career, and boost your work/business to greater heights!!
So even if you have a million reasons to avoid networking, there are a million more reasons you should consider attending these events! Networking is the easiest way to get your next amazing job! It helps to stay motivated if you keep in touch with people in the same industry, it will keep you updated on top of industry trends and Networking is your Best Career Safety Net ever!!
So, the next time you are invited to attend a meetup/networking event, here are some tried and tested strategies that you can explore which I can assure which will help you master your way to “work the room”!!
Arrive early and leave before time
It is very natural to feel overwhelmed if you enter a room and see the crowd already socializing and chatting away in their groups. Often if you are an introvert, you might find it uncomfortable to enter a group and interrupt an ongoing conversation. So while everyone is smiling, exchanging visiting cards and making connections effortlessly, you may feel awkward standing in a corner, clinging to one person you know loitering at the edge of conversations, unsure of whether to enter the new group or slip away.
Instead arrive early to the event before the crowd trickles in and things get busy. This will allow you to relax, get familiarized with the venue and also strike up some rapport with other early comers who might make you feel comfortable through the rest of the event. Arriving early will also help you make your connections faster and once you have connected with the few key people and exchanged information, you have no obligation to stay through the rest of the event!
Collect Visiting Cards and write on them!
Ok – I agree this is old fashioned way in this electronic age; however it is still extremely efficient to make some quick notes about your conversation so that you can refer to those later in your follow ups.
Did they tell you they wanted to meet you for coffee later? Write down and nail down a place and time immediately.
Did they tell you they are looking to hire for their growing team? Write down what they are looking for so you can help if possible.
After all, Networking is a 2-way street! You should always reach out to help first and do not drain a person’s time/resources. Purpose of networking is to develop meaningful and mutually beneficial partnerships!
Perfect your Elevator Pitch
Whenever you meet new people, the very first thing they want to know is “what do you do?”
Most people are unprepared and there is either an awkward silence or mindless yammering or an attempt to come up with witty jokes to stall the question. To avoid these pitfalls, it is best to prepare your elevator pitch ahead of time. Rehearse your 30 second pitch and practice out loud so that you can speak confidently about your work. To learn how to perfect your pitch, refer to this article in which I have provided some helpful tips!
Contact People in Advance
Do your research before attending the event and review the guest list if possible. Reach out to key people in advance giving them a heads up that you are looking forward to meeting them in person. This sets the tone of in-person meeting as they will be expecting to meet with you as well.
For ice breakers, make sure you browse their social media feed to dig into shared interests and have some talking points ready beforehand to keep them engaged in the discussion and keep the conversation going.
Bring a conference buddy
Being alone in a room full of strangers may be intimidating to some people. Having a coworker or a friend with you may ease the situation and boost your confidence. It is always easy to break ice with new people when you already are teamed up and you can easily form your own crowd!
One word of Caution: Try not to cling too closely to your buddy or you will defeat the whole purpose of networking!!
Take Time Out now and then
If you are at a big event like day long conferences always take time to recharge as it can be overwhelming to spend the entire time socializing with others. Take the much needed breaks like going for a walk, decompress in a quiet spot at hotel lobby or return to hotel room to freshen up! Having some quiet downtime will help you maintain your stamina through the event!
Follow Up/Be a Social Media Maven
You cannot be successful at networking without prompt follow ups. Make sure you get connected with your influencers online on LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media platforms. Stay in touch by contributing your feedback on their blogs, responding to their tweet with relevant question or sharing your point of view on their blog post etc
Here is a tip: Giving quick thumbs up on an article is easy, however commenting thoughtfully, providing valuable insights, offering more info/sharing your experience will actually stand out substantially and helps build stronger rapport with your influencer!
DON’TS of Networking
Do NOT compete
Do not try to compete for attention when you are in a crowd – most people love to talk about themselves, what they have to offer and would love to have someone listen to them. You can be that person. Do not stay mute however and speak up when needed but more importantly be an active listener, ask open ended questions and show genuine interest in people.
Do NOT try to sell
Networking is NOT about selling – so don’t sweat it! Do not worry about landing a client, signing a deal or getting your next job by attending a mixer! Instead think of networking as an opportunity to make new connections, forge good relationships and bond with people.
You do not need to impress everyone, even a handful of good connections will help you in the long term by introducing you to their circle and that is how you grow your network. Focus on helping others first before you ask for their help!
Do NOT Overthink
As with all the matters of the heart, overthinking this process too will only make you more anxious and stressed out. Develop a calm mindset and think of this event as a learning experience that will prepare you to do better at many more events in future. As long as you walk away with at least one or two meaningful connections, you are doing good!
Keep Calm and Network On!
With these helpful pointers, networking events will no longer seem overwhelming as now you are a natural networker! You got this!