The stress of attending networking events is real. Everyone knows they are supposed to be beneficial, but it can be hard to see how subjecting yourself to a room full of strangers and light refreshments is going to help your business move more stock. Luckily, these corporate “casual” gatherings have existed long enough for the mistakes of past attendees to have been recorded and analyzed. This means you can keep your RSVP and relax about your upcoming event by following these five networking tips.
1. Wear your brand on your sleeve
Don’t just stop at your business card, make your brand visible with corporate promotional products like clothing, conference products, and accessories. This doesn’t have to mean a loud, bright t-shirt. You can choose clothing that compliments your professional image by subtly branded business shirts, jackets, pullovers, and even vests. You could keep it simple and stick with a branded lanyard or get your logo printed on the notebooks and pens you and your colleagues use.
2. Stand at the end of the drinks queue
If you are alone and uneasy about making new connections at an event, you may want to find yourself a comfortable place where people naturally gather to make the mingling a little bit easier. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of setting yourself at the entrance. With the exception of serial networkers and uber-confident types, a lot of people feel nervous when first entering networking events, so they may not be up for immediate socializing.
By the time an attendee has located the refreshments area and picked up a drink, however, they will feel a lot more settled and open to conversation. You also have an easy conversation-starter if you need it — asking how the drink is!
3. Find genuine reasons to follow up
If you are wanting to make an impression or a potentially lasting connection, always try to use a genuine reason when you are following up. For example, if you discussed a certain topic or service with somebody at the event and later find an article or resource that reminds you of the conversation, let them know.
Similarly, if you connect with someone over a shared industry or topic of interest, and later find another event related to it, you could pass this on to see if the person is interested in attending. This way, you may end up attending your next networking event with someone you already know on the guestlist!
4. Do not ask anyone for a job, or a sale
Everybody wants more business, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a contractor, or an employee. Remember though, networking events are meant to be casual and enjoyable, so never try to actively sell something or do business at these events because you are there to connect with people. Your focus should be on building and strengthening professional relationships. This doesn’t mean ignoring questions about your line of work, but when the topic comes up, aim to share what you do rather than sell it.
5. Be yourself
Following rules of etiquette and adhering to local customs is one thing but this should never come at the expense of altering your core values and the passion that drives your business. Everybody values the uniqueness of their new connections because they are not seeking contacts who are exactly like themselves. So, share your work and your story in your own way and encourage others to do the same by active listening and staying curious.
Stay calm and return to these five tips whenever you’re feeling nervous about your next event. You’ve got this!