There is nothing more overwhelming than walking into a room of strangers at a networking event and not knowing where to start. The good news is that you are not alone – like you, people go to networking events to meet new people in the industry, so everyone is in the same boat. To help you get the most out of your next networking event, we have put together our top tips so you can connect with the right people.
It's everyone's fear to be stuck in a group with nothing to say. Make sure you have something prepared to pick up the conversation – think about something interesting you have been doing recently work wise, or perhaps something topical in the news or in the tech industry. Share interesting insights rather than facts – you will be more confident knowing that you have something up your sleeve in case of a lull in conversation.
Sometimes it is hard to keep track of all the people you meet at a networking event, particularly if you are trying to meet as many people as you can. It is a good idea to take some brief notes on the back of each person's business card either directly after you have finished your conversation with them and they walk away, or shortly after the event. This will help facilitate a more meaningful follow up, whereby you can mention specifically what you talked about or perhaps provide additional information or answers to questions that they may have had.
Set yourself a networking target
Remember, each networking event has a purpose – so set yourself a target for each event to make sure your networking is effective. Perhaps you want to meet 10 new contacts, if so, make sure that you leave with 10 new business cards/connections on LinkedIn. If there are particular people that you want to meet, search LinkedIn beforehand and work out if you have any common contacts that can facilitate an introduction. If not, find out through social media what your targets are interested in, introduce yourself, and strike up a conversation based on their interests (without being a stalker).
Seek out the event organiser
A great place to start if you don't know anyone is to introduce yourself to the event organiser. The event organiser will know a lot of the people in the room and will be able to facilitate introductions to particular people that you may like to meet.
Give more than you take
When you meet someone, think about how you can add value to them without expecting anything back. Relationships are a two-way street, but you must first show some goodwill to get your foot in the door. Remember, no one likes a straight-up sales pitch, so work on developing the relationship organically and focus on how you can help them.
When you are nervous, it can be easy to forget to be personable. Make sure you don't interrupt people's conversations and start talking about yourself – it happens all too often. Just take it slow, and build rapport the same way you would build a friendship, and business will flow.
It may seem like everyone already knows each other and is already in a conversation, however most people are actually meeting each other for the first time. Don't be afraid to join a group already in conversation - wait for a natural break and then introduce yourself. Remember, networking is not an easy task – practice makes perfect so make sure you stick with it. If you have a plan, come prepared, and are not afraid to join in on a conversation, you will be set for success at any networking event.
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