Does networking at professional events give you social anxiety? Do you find it challenging to introduce yourself memorably, exit a conversation gracefully and really “work the room”?
Although it can be a nerve-wracking experience, there is no denying how important and valuable it can be for your career. The key is learning (and practicing!) how to do it right so you can go on to build a strong professional network.
Here are 7 basic networking tips that can help you get through the holiday party season.
You already know you’re going to have to introduce yourself multiple times and (as we know) first impressions are important...so you would be wise to practice introducing yourself before you go to your event.
This might sound like a silly thing to do, but it's easy to flub your own intro when you're nervous..
2. Be bold and introduce yourself confidently
When you walk into the room, look for someone who might be by themselves or entering the event at the same time and confidently introduce yourself to them. Be bold when you approach people; it’s a networking event after all so people are expecting to be approached!
3. Listening, asking questions and maintaining eye contact shows genuine interest in others
Networking is not just about meeting people, it’s about building connections and new relationships. An important part of that is showing the other person that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say and are engaged in your conversation. Asking questions, listening carefully, smiling and maintaining eye contact is a great way to show that.
4. If someone hands you a business card, actually read it and put it somewhere safe
If someone hands you a business card, it’s considered good etiquette to take a few seconds to read the front and back of it before placing it in your business card holder or wallet. Bonus points for writing a note on it (perhaps with the date, or about a detail of the conversation you want to remember).
Please do not crumple it up in a ball and put it in your back pocket! :/
5. Don’t be afraid to join ongoing conversations
The point of networking events is to network! People are expecting to be approached by strangers and welcome others into their ongoing conversations. It might feel odd at first, but in a networking context, it’s completely acceptable.
They key is to be mindful that others might having a private conversation, so it’s always a good idea to check by asking “may I join you?”. Unless they're spies (or jerks) chances are they will welcome you with open arms.
6. Be inclusive of others who join your group conversation
If you’re in a group conversation and you see another person join be inclusive by acknowledging them (then during a break in conversation) catch them up on what you’ve been chatting about e.g. “Sarah was just telling us that the food in Vancouver is great, but that it rained every day for her entire trip". That way, you give them the topic and a chance to comment/participate immediately.
7. It’s OK to exit a conversation, but do it gracefully and with respect
A good networker will be able to really “work the room”, meaning they’ll be able to meet a lot of people while successfully building genuine connections. But how can you really work the room if you’re caught in a conversation with a single person all night?
Know that it’s OK to excuse yourself from conversations, but it’s important you do it gracefully and with respect. Here are a few lines you can have in your back pocket that will help you smoothly transition out of a conversation:
“...I don’t want to monopolize your time anymore as I’m sure you have many other people you’d like to connect with. It was lovely talking to you!“...thanks for your time tonight, I really enjoyed our conversation and look forward to connecting on LinkedIn”“...on that note, I better get back out there. Look forward to seeing you at another event!"
Mastering the basics of networking is all about being yourself and putting some simple strategies into practice. The more you get out there and practice, the easier and less nerve-wracking this becomes.