The mere mention of the word “networking event” can make some people break out into a cold sweat.
Being in a room with total strangers and having to strike up new conversations can cause anxiety in even the most confident of professionals. Luckily, networking isn’t all that complicated or hard. There are a few tricks I’ve learned over the years that make networking really easy and really comfortable. Not to mention, worthwhile.
If you aren’t making any meaningful connections at a networking event, then it was a waste of time and money. There is a reason networking events exist – and that is to make connections.
Here are my favorite networking tips to making sure you crush your next networking event.
1) Bring Business Cards.
Oh, you already knew that? Well, you’d be surprised how many people forget this important step. Don’t forget your business card, you aren’t an amateur. Pro tip: your card should clearly state what you do. A networking event can result in a stack of business cards on someone’s desk and you don’t want to be forgotten when that stack is sifted through a week later.
2) Say “Hi, I’m Stephanie. What do you do?”
There are a lot of people who will tell you not to ask this question. Bless their heart, but they obviously haven’t been to a networking event in a while. The reason you are there is to learn what people do – so get right down to it. Are you more than what “you do” – of course you are – but “What are you passionate about?” is a terrible question to ask a perfect stranger. When your new connection tells you what they do for a living, you can then follow up with “Wow! How did you find a passion for insurance sales?” to which they will tell you then.
When you are in a room with a group of people you’ve never met, it’s the easiest way to start a conversation. Why? Because you say one little sentence and the other person takes over. Pressure is off! Memorize this sentence (except for the part where you say “Stephanie”) and you’ll always have the perfect opening line. Walk up to a new person, smile, extend a handshake and recite.
3) Then say “How did you get into that field?”
Another question you need to commit to memory. This is a conversation expander. Usually, there is an interesting story behind almost everyone’s career choice. This opens the door to actual connection and fun conversation. This is the point where you can interject and find “me too” moments. “That’s so interesting! I am from Nebraska, too!” You now have heard enough of this new connection’s back story to ask more great questions or offer insights of your own.
It’s not easy to strike up a conversation at a networking event, but that’s just what it is. A conversation. Taking the first step to starting one is that hardest part, and the person you are talking to will be grateful you did it first.
Just to tally it up, you only need to memorize two little sentences and hold a stack of business cards to totally crush it.
Bonus tip: If you know some people at the event, make meaningful introductions. Introduce two people and explain why you think they should connect. They’ll start to converse, you can say, “Would you excuse me?” and then go find another person to chat up. Try not to stay in one conversation for too long. Now you’ve helped two others connect and you are able to go make even more acquaintances.
Getting known is vital when you are an entrepreneur. Networking is a great way to make local connections and an invaluable skill to have. It’s your goal to be remembered and to be thought of when someone needs a recommendation for a service or product you provide. In turn, try and be thoughtful of the people you meet when it’s your turn to recommend.