We all have to network. Much like death and taxes, there is simply no avoiding it–so you may as well be awesome at it! We live in a world where connections and contacts are key in growing your business. Networking is one of the easiest ways to meet the individuals who can help bring your business to the next level. Outside of just remembering to bring your exceptional business cards, here are a few tips to make the most out of your next networking event by being able to drum up a conversation with anyone!
Similarly to how you would prepare for a job interview, be sure to know where you are going and what the company or organization that is putting it on does. Extra points if you learn something pertinent about someone important & bring it up in the conversation. You don’t need to go full-on Devil Wears Prada (ie. making a binder & memorizing everyone’s pets names), but putting in a little extra work will allow you to walk in there confidently, ready to network with the best of them.
There is no perfect rule for this but shortly before you go, get excited! Do whatever you need to in order to turn that nervous energy into excitement. Whether that means playing your favorite pump-up jams in your car and singing at the top of your lungs to Beyonce (like it does for most of us) or giving yourself a mini pep-talk to get in the right head space, just be sure to do it! There are a bunch of studies out there that say you are better off embracing your nerves by turning them into excitement then you are by trying to calm them down. We all get anxious before entering a room full of strangers, the only difference between the girl you see ruling a room and the one awkwardly standing in the corner is her state of mind. Rule that room and when in doubt ask yourself WWQBD (what would Queen B do?).
Take comfort in the fact that everyone is walking into the room just as you are. Everyone is likely there alone, knows no one and is at least a little nervous. Be the person you wish was there. Walk into the room and say hello to the first person you see. Be warm and inviting; it’s contagious. Include the person standing alone into your conversation. Everyone is there to meet people and will remember the fact that you were the one to make them feel included and say hello first.
The best way to confidently walk up to anyone in the room is to be confident about what you’re going to say. Have your one-liner about who you are and what you do ready to fire out at any moment. Then be sure to have at least one more follow up fact, statement or question. Nothing is worse than that deafening silence that comes after both parties have already gone through the “Hi, what do you do?” and neither knows what to say next. If nothing immediately comes to mind, it is always a good option to follow up with another question about the other person. Things like “How long have you been in that business?” or “How did you get into your field?” are always strong follow-ups. If something they say piques your interest or they say something you don’t understand, follow up and ask more questions. Do not be afraid to go past the surface level. The best part of networking is to find someone you genuinely find interesting or inspiring. When you find that person, make the most of your time with them to learn as much as you can.
Making introductions is another great tip when drumming up a new conversation. Everyone is there to make a promising connection or meet someone in particular. If you are able to make that connection, do it! People will thank you for doing so and will hopefully remember to pay it forward in the future. On a big scale, introduce someone you just met to the person they are looking to meet. On a small scale, introduce a new person into your conversation with people you have also just met. This may sound silly, but it’s effective. People will always remember the person that led them to a great collaboration. Make the time to be that person!