Networking events are a great place to meet people, make connections, and discover new opportunities that can help further your career or business. But if you’re not sure where to begin, it can be a little intimidating. Here are some tips on how to be your best at a networking event so you don’t miss out on a valuable opportunity.
Even for the most outgoing, extroverted people, networking events can be a bit nerve-wracking.
It’s normal to feel nervous: Even people who have been attending these events for many years still feel anxious about going. The key is to keep in mind that everyone else there probably feels the same way! If you can, remind yourself that this is an opportunity to meet new people, and it’s not life or death if you don’t make a connection with every single person at the event (or any).
Be yourself! You might think that if you act like someone else, that person will be more likely to want to make a connection with you. But people are much more likely to connect with you if they feel that you’re being genuine and are interested in getting to know them. Even if it’s tempting, don’t try to be someone else.
First thing's first: You need to arrive early and stay late. Don't just zip in and out of the event, hoping to make a splash.
You want to make sure you set aside enough time for the event. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time here at the Chamber, it’s that the best way to make the most of an event (and also have a good time) is to show up early and stay late. Don’t just run in, make a quick impression, and then dash out—you’ll miss all the good stuff!
And by “good stuff” I mean the real connections and opportunities that can only come from being present and involved at an event. You shouldn’t go to events solely to spread your brand or promote your business; instead, try building relationships. Don’t look at everyone as a potential lead (even though they might be); see them as actual people with whom you can learn more about and make a real connection. The best way to do that is by showing up early and staying late so that you have adequate time to meet other like-minded individuals. Think about this: the people who show up early and stay late are probably like you–they are looking for genuine connections, not just another lead to hand their business card to.
Get your 30-second pitch down pat.
The Frisco Chamber of Commerce hosts our Chamber Works networking event every Thursday morning at Strikz Entertainment here in Frisco. At this event, one representative from each organization gets an opportunity to give a 30-second pitch to the entire room, usually 80-100 people.
It can be hard to find the right words at a networking event. If you’re anything like me, you’d probably prefer to avoid public speaking altogether. But the truth is, if you don’t put yourself out there, you won’t get anywhere. So how do you find the right words to explain what you and your company can do for others?
Start by being clear about who you are and what you do. Be sure to mention your name and the name of your company (if applicable). For example “My name is Brian Davis, and I’m the Director of Marketing and Event Sponsorships with the Frisco Chamber of Commerce.”
Next, explain exactly what it is that you do in a way that’s accessible to someone hearing about it for the first time. “I’m responsible for marketing the chamber and assisting businesses with a plan to increase their participation in community and chamber events.” Avoid industry jargon. No one will be impressed if they can’t understand what you’re saying.
Finally, end with a call to action (recommendation) or an invitation like, “I would love to hear all about what you’re working on, and discuss ideas for how we can help your organization get more involved in our community!” This invites them to reciprocate by asking follow-up questions or how they can help you!
Don’t be discouraged if your pitch is a little awkward at first—it happens to everyone. It just takes a little time to find your voice, but you’ll get there. As you get more practice networking, I am certain you’ll find ways to make your pitch more creative, interesting, and persuasive. It just takes time.
Don't just talk about yourself. Ask questions to understand what others are looking for, too.
As you work your way around a networking event, be sure to stay focused on the other person and their needs. Ask questions to understand what they are looking for, as opposed to just talking about yourself.
· What do you do?
· Where do you want to be in 5 years?
· Are there any challenges in your current job/role?
· What are some of the things that you love about your job or industry?
· How did you get started with [insert company name]?
And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun! Networking events can be overwhelming, but if you remember to smile and be yourself, it will make all the difference.
Don't forget to take notes after you meet someone new.
If you’re meeting many people at the same event, you might find it hard to keep track of who is who. Taking notes can help you follow up later and make a stronger first impression in the future.
In addition to general information about your new contacts (their names, their company names), you can also record how each person might be able to help or work with you in the future. This will help make sure that your follow-up email or call is prompt, personalized, and more valuable to both parties.
Be sure to follow up with the people you met.
There’s a lot to think about at a networking event, especially if you’re not used to going to them. But one of the most important things you can do is follow up with everyone you met. As I previously mentioned, it’ll be easier for you and your new connections if you write down everyone’s information during the event or immediately after.
When following up, make sure to send an email as soon as possible, preferably within one business day. It can be as simple as:
It was great meeting you at the event! I’m glad we were able to connect.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me anytime. I look forward to hearing from you!”
The important thing is that you keep your message short and sweet, while still reminding them who you are. Just be sure to include a good signature line with all your contact information.
It’s important that after following up with someone, you keep in touch with them so they don’t forget who you are! A good way of doing this is by connecting with them on LinkedIn—it’s professional and allows both of you to see what each other has been up to at work.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re on your way to becoming a networking pro!
Remember that networking is a long game. The key thing is that you’re consistent—don’t just show up at one meeting, decide it’s not for you, and never go back! You might not see a direct result from your attendance at one meeting, but that doesn’t mean your efforts aren’t building toward something bigger. Instead of thinking of networking as a way to make immediate connections, think of it as a long-term investment of your time—one that will eventually pay off with dividends (long-lasting relationships).
Learn more about our weekly Chamber Works networking event.
If you are not a member of the Frisco Chamber of Commerce but would like to attend our Chamber Works networking event on Thursday morning, please check out the link below.