It takes a rare type of person to actually enjoy networking. For most, the concept of meeting someone you don’t know is daunting – and especially worrisome when you’re representing your company or trying to source a new job.
Use the ‘Buddy System’
Stop by enough networking soirees and sooner or later you’ll end up at one that just plain sucks. All you want is one person to chat with, but nobody in the room wants to talk.
That’s why it’s best to drag a friend along with you. First, they’re your friend, and should suffer with you. That’s the friend code.
But really, bringing a friend gives you a “home base,” and someone to chat with while you enjoy free watered-down drinks and bad hors d’oeuvres. If push comes to shove, at least you two can plan your escape together.
If the event is fun, or otherwise engaging, you have a conversation-buddy to keep things moving. Besides, your friend may find the event useful as well, which makes you a great friend for taking them.
Your Phone is Your Friend
We’re not advocating that you play ‘Super Mario Run’ during networking events, but your phone is a gateway to the world. Use it accordingly at these types of gatherings.
Does that woman seem oddly popular? Do a walk-by and check out her name badge. Google the company, and maybe check her LinkedIn. It’s not creepy; now you know what she does, and why people are interested in chatting with her.
From there, you can use your freshly gathered info as a means to start a conversation. A simple “Hey, I’ve heard of [whatever company she works for], they do great work” is a fun, friendly conversation starter. Who knows, it might even lead to great things. And if if doesn’t, well…
Don’t Stay Long
Your job at a networking event is to network. That doesn’t mean you have to meet everyone, or engage everyone you’re introduced to. Making solid contacts is far better than making a bunch of them.
This is why you should walk away when you’re satisfied with what you’ve accomplished. If that means you’re there an hour (or even less!), then you’re just really good at networking.
Just be sure to give people you want to connect with a way to reach out, whether that’s giving them your information or getting theirs.
”Come Here Often?”
No, don’t use sleazy pick-up lines. But asking if they go to many networking events is both a great ice breaker and a way to make loose follow-up plans.
If they’re seasoned networking pros, it can lead to a discussion on which gatherings are good, and which should be avoided. This is handy if you’re new to networking, as you can get some insight on which events or locations may be more worth your time.
It’s also a good way to find a kindred spirit who may hate networking gatherings as much as you. Maybe they can become your other half in the buddy system!
Leave on a High Note
Seinfeld devoted an entire episode to leaving a conversation at the right time. For him, it was leaving when a good joke lands. Showmanship!
It backfired on George, but it won’t for you. When you sense that things in a conversation at your next networking event are going well, excuse yourself. Maybe you ‘see a friend’ you need to catch up with, or there a different event you have to catch. Leave ‘em wanting more.
Just be sure to exchange info first, or have a way to follow up if you need to.
Networking Can Be Fun
There’s nothing natural about networking. Walking around glaring at name-tags to see who’s there and where they work, finding a reason to chat with someone you might find interesting… it’s all terrible.
Just remember you’re not stuck there, and leaving when things just don’t seem worth your time is fine. Give it a solid effort first.