Networking can be a stress-inducing event regardless of how far along your career path you are. Whether you are the CEO of a major corporation or just starting out in your profession, being put in an unfamiliar setting with people you don’t know is inherently uncomfortable.
However the benefits to networking – when it is done well – are too great to miss out on. It’s a simple truth that the better impression you make on a peer and the better you get on with them, the more likely they are to want to do business with you. With the Alumni Networking Event taking place on 6th December, make sure you read these top tips to make the most of it!
The most obvious thing to consider is your appearance – are you dressed for success? This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be in a full suit and wearing shoes that will blind anyone who looks at them for too long. Consider what the appropriate clothing is likely to be for the event and the industry and don’t be afraid to ask what the dress code is if you are unsure!
Now you’ve chosen your outfit and have made it to the event, it’s all about making a good first impression. Be confident when you introduce yourself to people, look them in the eye and shake their hand firmly, but not too firmly! A positive, professional introduction will leave a mark on the people you meet and ensure they remember you further down the line.
There is nothing more embarrassing than being introduced to somebody and not remembering their name. You would no doubt be perturbed if somebody did it to you, right? Make sure you listen to what people say – take your time, ask them questions and ask them again if you aren’t sure. People appreciate somebody who shows a genuine interest in them and remembers their conversation.
Networking is always a bit of a lottery so it can be difficult to be strategic. There may well be times where you simply didn’t get a chance to engage with the person you targeted. But that doesn’t mean you should wing it entirely – a little research and an agenda can be the difference between leaving having had a nice conversation and some canapés compared to a quality interaction with a potential collaborator.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions to the event organisers. Normally they will be happy to provide an itinerary for the event and even a guest-list, so you can plan your night in detail and make sure the people you want to talk to are going to be there. Once you’ve planned this, keep an eye on the people you want to talk to but not at the expense of those you’re currently in conversation with! Once you meet your target, it’s always good to have conversation topics and questions in mind.
ADJUST YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH
An elevator pitch is an incredibly useful weapon to have in your arsenal. It can be plucked out and recited at any time and should accurately convey why people would want to get involved in your business. Chances are, though, at networking events you will meet people who work in completely different industries and have distinct viewpoints. Will your elevator pitch be as effective on them?
If not, you can personalise it to fit the situation you are in. Translate your points to make them relevant for the industry or profession the person you are talking to is from. Doing this not only shows that you can analyse things from different perspectives, but indicates that you are fully engaged in the conversation and are thinking creatively about it.
It’s the next morning and you’re back in the office checking your emails and getting back to the daily grind. STOP. Have you messaged the contacts you gained last night? Telling your colleagues about the interesting people you met is all well and good but there is no substitute for a bright, early follow-up message.
Whether it’s by email, LinkedIn or a quick phone call, a reminder of your conversation and any action points that you agreed on will kick-start any collaboration. Don’t wait around for the work to pile up and the details of your conversation to slowly trickle out of your memory, strike while the iron is hot and double-down on the new professional relationship you have formed. Even if you don’t get an immediate response, the fact that you have followed-up indicates the sincerity of your interaction and is an example of good business practice that will make them more likely to want to work with you.
The truth is there is nothing to be afraid of. Everyone who attends a networking event is in the same boat and, in most cases, wants the same thing. So be bold and confident but also be strategic and receptive. Networking is a two-way street and if you try to make it all about you it will only turn people away.
Media and Communications Manager