How to Network Like a Pro
Whether you are going to STREAM, SLUSH, TRIBE or Business Tampere events, or other opportunities to mingle, meet new people, and potentially make mad career moves, YOU MUST KNOW HOW TO NETWORK!
The season for networking is upon us!
Most people have a similar story when it comes to networking.
You arrive at an event, shyly smile at the person who is taking attendance and giving you a nametag. Then you make your way to the snack table where you slowly and verrry carefully select your cookies, cheese, and fruit. You realize that it’s now impossible to pour and carry a mug of coffee while also balancing your carefully cultivated snack plate, so you shrug with the happy knowledge that coming back for coffee will give you an excuse to escape a painful conversation with a stranger.
Snack plate in hand, you stand alone. Aching for something to do, you go to place your purse/satchel on a chair that is nicely spaced from where others have saved theirs. Now, the dilemma: do you sit down, pretending to look like a very important person checking emails and responding to emergencies? Or do you take a deep breath, stand up tall, and walk the plank into the frey of unknown people to a quite possible social and professional death?
IT DOESN’T HAVE TO GO LIKE THIS!
Really. It doesn’t.
Why? Because it is possible to approach networking with confidence and walk away with contacts and connections that will be valuable! IT IS POSSIBLE! How? Check out the 12 tips below:
12 Steps to Networking Like a Pro
- Know why you are going to this event and what you want to get out of it. Yes. I’m asking you to BE PREPARED. This will help you be focused at the event – it will also give you a confident answer to provide when people ask what brought you to this event.
- Do your research. Consider who else will be at this event. Sometimes, the guest list is available so you can take a look at it beforehand. Even if it isn’t, think about who you want to meet. Everybody knows somebody, so if you know the kind of person that you want to meet and why you will be able to connect with more people in more meaningful ways – and they can connect you with people they know if they trust you have a valid reason!
- Practice a powerful introduction. This might be only 1-2 sentences, but you MUST be ready when people ask what you do or why you are there. For example: My name is Jen W. Johnson and I love connecting people. I’m here because I am creating a new course for Y-kampus and I am looking for experts who would like to be on our panel.
- Go with confidence. Dress in clothes that make you feel confident and respect the people around you – you want to be able to trust yourself at this event, and you want others to trust you too! Walk with good posture, and practice your smile. Bonus points if you utilize Amy Cuddy’s confidence technique and strike your favourite power pose before you enter the room, giving you some instant confidence!
- Have a mantra. Connecting with people is one of my strengths, but I still get nervous and overwhelmed when I am attending an event filled with influential people. The space before a networking event can often be filled with self-doubt. Remember – the only person who can make you feel small is you! I repeat things like “I am an expert in my field.” or “Everything I touch is gold” or even “I own this room” “My business is worthy of investment”. What words do you need to hear to remind you that you are awesome?
- Don’t hang out in your comfort zone. If you are going with a group of people from your school, work, or friend group, DO NOT hang out with them! Divide and conquer. If you need moral support, make the rounds with one other person. If you want your night to be successful, you should NEVER be with more than 1 person that you know. And when you are with that 1 person, there’d better be strangers talking to you, too!
- Make the first move. The longer you stand alone with your snack plate, the more opportunity for self-doubt to kick in OR for other insecure people to approach you and let’s be honest – you’re here to connect with people who are higher than you on the totem pole of life, not those who are hanging out in the safe zone. So put on that smile, repeat your mantra, and go up to a pair or small group of people who are already talking. Insert yourself in the small talk and, when there’s a break, make an introduction and stick out your hand to meet the others. Take the reins of the conversation with questions like, “What brings you here?” “have you been to events here before?” “have you seen this speaker before?” “what do you do?” “are you friends with the bride or groom?” (because yes, this works for social situations too!)
- When you sit down, don’t go right to your phone. Set yourself down nicely, look to your left or right, and introduce yourself to the people sitting around you. Not only does this let you make 1-2 new connections, it also breaks the ice for the moment when the speaker asks you to interact with your neighbors. Score! Been there, done that, piece of cake. Bonus points if you remember their names and use them again when you’re speaking with them!
- Bring your business cards. If you don’t have a business card, have one made – even if you’re a student or unemployed. Be creative! Have your business cards ready – nobody wants to dig around in the bottom of their purse only to meekly offer a wrinkled card with a piece of gum stuck to it. No! Respect yourself, man! Protect your cards, know where they are, and hand those babies out like candy.
- Collect business cards. Collect them because it makes it SUPER easy to follow up. Collect cards from everyone you meet, and in a spare moment, bathroom break, or other lull in the action make a note on the back with a memory of who they are and what you discussed. This way, when you follow up with them you can make a personal, meaningful connection.
- FOLLOW UP! Follow up within 24 hours. Yes. 24 hours. Send everyone you met a nice email that tells them how lovely it was to meet them, references something that was meaningful to you in the conversation (see #10) or even sends a link providing background or more info to something you discussed. If they offered to do something for you, or you for them, make sure that you say thank you or that you clarify what you will do by when. Offer to support them in the future, and send that email off with a hug or a kiss.
- LinkedIn: If you’re a LinkedIn kind of person, you can go ahead and connect with them on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to send a brief message so they know who you are! And don’t, please don’t, friend them on Facebook unless they ask you to. Let’s be professional, ok?
Wow! That was a whirlwind. But can you see that it’s possible? In only 12 steps, you too can be a networking expert and start building connections and networks and empires with the best of them.
Do you have questions about networking? Tips to share? Comment below!