6 Tips to Make Networking Events Less Intimidating
Posted April 25, 2019
By Amy Wolfgang in News and Updates
“I think you should attend this networking event.” Those words strike fear in many people, even those with outgoing personalities.
Calling it a networking event can turn a potentially fun-filled, productive evening into a dreaded, obligatory occasion.
Networking events lead to great things:
- New relationships with people who can eventually help you in your career search.
- New relationships with people who can help you in your current line of work.
- Potential referrals for your business.
- Receiving an expert opinion on the next step for you or your business.
- An additional contact from someone you just met who could help further your career or your business.
Great opportunities are found at these events but, at the same time, they can be intimidating.Great opportunities and connections are waiting for you. Here are some tips for making them much more pleasant.
1. Know your Career Goals in Advance.
Are you looking to find someone in an industry you are looking to break into? Are you looking to promote your business? Once you clearly identify why you are going, try to set some measurable goals about how many new people you will meet that evening or how many business cards you will give away. Having goals will help you focus on the event and reduce the time you spend aimlessly wandering around. Also, they will help you understand if the event was successful and if you should return to similar events in the future.
2. Phone a friend.
Can you bring a friend with you to the event? Knowing someone who will also be at the event can put you at ease about attending as well as make you more comfortable when you are there.
But beware the “friend trap”! Bringing someone can backfire if you only talk to them the entire night. While you may feel less apprehensive at the event, you may talk to fewer people.
3. Find someone you know.
Seek out a friendly face and say hello. If they are talking to others, introduce yourself to the people surrounding your friend. An easy question in this scenario is to ask, “How do you know [friend’s name]?” This can break the ice.
When you finally get a chance to speak with your friend, let them know that you do not know many people at the event and would appreciate a few introductions. If there is a specific type of person you want to connect with, let your friend know that as well.
4. Utilize the activities at the event.
The toughest networking scenario is when you don’t know anyone at the event and go by yourself. In this case, try to use the activities or functions at the event to your advantage. Does the event have a bar or buffet? Once you are in the food or beverage line, begin speaking to someone also in line. Are you at an art gallery? Approach a piece of art and chat about it with someone else who is also looking at it. It’s much easier to speak to people when you already have some common ground.
5. Find the approachable people.
Look around the room, can you identify anyone else who is alone? They are probably feeling somewhat uncomfortable as well. If there is no one else standing alone, look for those in a group of two. Smaller groups are easier to approach. Before approaching any group, look at their body language. Do they seem to be having a personal conversation? Or does it seem like a more casual networking conversation? Seek out those who do not appear to be having a private conversation.
But beware the “comfort trap”! Once you have found someone or a small group of people to speak to, you will likely begin to relax. Make sure you don’t stay anchored to this new group for the rest of the evening. Remember your goals and act on them, being courteous at the same time. Once there is a natural lull in the conversation, use that to break away.
6. Move on gracefully.
If the conversation is clearly over, there are several ways to easily move on so you can continue meeting new people. You can take a food or drink break and announce, “I’m going to grab a drink.” Or, at the first conversation pause, you can say something like, “It was great to meet you, [first name]. I’m going to continue to mingle and if I find anyone who could be a good contact for you, I’ll make sure to introduce you.” A final way to end the conversation is to offer your business card or ask for theirs.
These tips should take some of the anxiety out of networking events! For additional support, consider working with a career coach to work through some of your fears. Texas Exes new graduates are eligible for special coaching packages, so jumpstart your career journey today!