How many of us find ourselves going from one networking event to another, without really getting much from it? How many think of networking with dread, like it is a necessary evil?
Networking is necessary alright, but it needn’t be such a trial. Technology has made some of the burden easy by giving us options to interact without always having to physically interact with the other person. But that can only go so far. The connections and relationships you can build through actual face to face meetings remain unparalleled.
So now what? Train yourself to steer clear off those awkward moments from any networking event and you will have won the battle.
What am I doing here?
If you find yourself stuck to a wall nursing a drink at networking events, chances are you have asked yourself this question numerous times already. Nothing can be as disconcerting as being faced by this monumental question in the middle of an event. But there is a simple solution – do your homework. Before going to an event, ask yourself who do you want to meet and why.
Some events let you get prior information about the guests who will be present. Even if that’s not an option, you can always decide what you want to get out of that event, and work your way through accordingly. Remember, knowing if you want to share information about your new project, or if you are fishing for information about better vendors, or if you are looking for someone to mentor you – this knowledge is key to effective networking.
Hmmm… Ermmm… Uh – hh…
Dull conversations can be a killer. If you don’t know anyone at an event and are uncomfortable breaking into conversations you will most likely end up having a tough time. And not knowing what to talk next will only break out the sweat faster. So read up on industry news and trends before going to an event. This will give you a quiver full of arrows to use any time you sense a lag in the conversation.
Introducing a topic that can be of interest to you and the person you are in conversation with, and inviting their opinion will always be appreciated. It will also have the added benefits of relieving you of some of the burden of the conversation and hopefully a chance to get some new information or perspective. And anyone providing a scintillating conversation almost always has great recall value.
Identifying what works for you and which bits give you trouble will also help you in making a success of any networking event. You will be able to figure out what you need to avoid and what you need to get more practice of. But even as you are doing all this, do not forget that just meeting people and collecting contacts is not enough. However you perform at the event, nothing will convert unless you work on the ‘Follow Up’!