In a previous blog, we discussed some of the best ways to prepare for your first networking event. Now that you’ve done all the research to ensure you’re maximizing your networking experience, it’s time to actually do it. Feeling a bit overwhelmed once you arrive is totally understandable, but it should not inhibit you from walking through the door. Here are just a few tips to help you navigate your first networking event.
Meet to a Set Number of People
You can certainly calibrate the amount of people depending on the size of the event and how long it will last. However, determine how many introductions you want to make and stick to it. It may sound arbitrary, but sticking to a goal will help you branch out of your comfort zone, especially if you are not a fan of talking to strangers. It may also sound like you are casting too wide of a net, but you never know what simply saying hello to someone can lead to.
For example, try telling yourself you will make at least 25 introductions. These introductions may not necessarily need to lead anywhere), but you will get more comfortable breaking the ice. While introducing yourself is a great exercise, it should not be the ultimate goal. In addition to your introductions, plan to have at least 3 meaningful conversations that are relevant to your goals. “Meaningful” means you are going beyond the simple introductions and discussing something relevant to you, your company, or your conversation partner and their company. These are where the real connections happen.
Bring Pen and Paper
For many of us, the idea of note taking, especially on paper, can seem a bit archaic. However, it’s the best way to maintain your attention with whomever you are speaking. You do not have to write down every word someone says verbatim, but jotting down a few quick notes will help you remember your meaningful conversations. Make sure you write down the person’s name, where they work, and a phone number and/or email.
Why not use a phone? Chances are, it’s easier for you to write and listen than type and listen. Using a phone can also give off the wrong impression. You might leave someone thinking “is the person really texting on/checking their phone while I’m having a conversation with them?” This will probably lead people to think you are disinterested in whatever they’re saying and it will be that much harder to have those meaningful conversations.
Pro tip: If you’re given a business card that already includes all of that information, jot down something memorable about the meeting so it jogs your memory later. You meet a lot of contacts at networking events and when the event ends, you return to the work grind. A few notes will help you remember your conversation hours or even days later. If you want to follow up with an email or phone call, mark it on the card and organize the cards accordingly. All of these are great ways to ensure you do not end up with a stack of business cards in your pocket with no frame of reference of who you talked to.
In that same vein, bring your own business cards (still one of the best ways to distribute your contact information) and consider jotting a personal note down before
Listen More than You Talk
The essence of networking is to make meaningful and mutually beneficial connections. While ambition is a powerful driving force, it can often lead to tunnel vision. In other words, you might grow too focused on achieving your own goals that you forget the person with whom you’re speaking to might also have goals. While keeping sight of your goals, make sure you’re really hearing what the other person has to say. Some calls this “active listening,” truly internalizing what the other person is saying and giving the impression that you are interested and invested in the information.
While it’s important to introduce yourself and get your own brand out there, it may come off as arrogant or selfish to simply launch right into your own life story. After you introduce yourself to someone, ask them some leading questions. Doing so can help you gauge their expertise and how best you might forge a meaningful connection.
Nail Your First Networking Event at Ascender
At Ascender, we offer a number of monthly events geared and helping you network and grow your business or company. From our Starter Series that focuses on the crucial elements of starting a new business, our Builder Series to help you understand every element of running a successful company, to monthly themed programming on every topic under the sun. Check out our full calendar of events here to get started on your first networking experience.