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Professional Networking: Tips For Networking Events, Part 1
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Professional Networking: Tips For Networking Events, Part 1 - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Tips For Networking Events, Part 1

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Tips For Networking Events, Part 1

In previous articles on this subject, we've focused on curating and maintaining quality relationships as a networking strategy, including advice specifically about using online social networking for its reach and depth. Yet experts agree that you cannot do it all from a computer, that in-person networking is critical for beginning and nurturing many of the relationships that will help your network blossom. Nothing replaces a smile and handshake, and while some of the wisdom we've shared suggests that in-person networking events are among the worst places for the germination of quality relationships, for many of us, they are inevitable anyway, so we may as well do our best to maximize the benefit of our time there. Additionally, if you are repeatedly invited to such events, you should be flattered, and at the very least, consider your attendance a favor to the friend who invites you.

One other excellent reason for attending in-person networking events is that it's a great way to meet, in real life, some of the people you've only encountered online, in passing. We all have those friends of friends we see in each other's timelines and newsfeeds, and while a direct connection request can feel awkward on that basis alone, finally connecting an online presence to a real-life face and conversation is all you need for establishing a meaningful relationship, one that can add to the robustness of your professional sphere. Many conversations in these settings begin with, "Oh yes, I've seen you online but we've never directly interacted!" Mutual awareness and repeatedly crossing online paths are great indicators of possible common interests.

If you are gifted with excellent social skills, or if you have spent a career honing these skills, you are probably completely in your element at networking events. For many of us, however, such gatherings can feel awkward, and we've all seen the people we DON'T want to be like so there can be extra stress related to coming across in a positive, favorable way. It is for those of us who are still unsure of ourselves that these tips are offered.

In an article for Lifehacker, former White House writer John Corcoran (http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/5-killer-hacks-for-networking-events.html) offers excellent advice for the shy or introverted: listen. This is good advice for anyone, really, and among the most useful (and oft-forgotten) skills for networking events. By listening attentively to what others are sharing, you voluntarily offer what many are there for anyway--namely, someone to share with. Ask specific, interesting questions that demonstrate your caring about the subject, or your awareness of certain issues related to the person's field. The value of a good, thoughtful question simply cannot be overstated. People remember the people who ask them good questions, and even if your part of the exchange is a lot smaller than the other person's, that person will remember you as a good conversationalist.

Be positive. Arnie Fertig, a job-hunting coach writing for US News, reminds us that whatever our current situation, a networking event is not the place for sharing any gripes you have with your current employer, gossip you may have heard about some prominent company, or your own difficulties, personal or professional (http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/5-killer-hacks-for-networking-events.html). Keep a sincere smile on your face, and let no negativity escape your lips. You simply cannot go wrong keeping to this strategy. Even if you're looking for a connection that might lead to new employment, you don't want to be remembered as the person who's unhappy. Let your personal strengths, not anyone else's weaknesses, be the reason someone wants to reach out in the future. There is a time and place for frankness, but the initial stages of a connection at an event provide neither. This does not mean you need to lie; rather, steer potentially negative topics in positive directions. Keep it positive always.

There's a lot of advice out there for remembering people's names, and most of it is pretty good, but nothing beats not having to remember names at all. You don't remember the names of your friends or close colleagues: you simply know them. Likewise, since you are focused on forming relationships, do those things that develop relationships in your life, and names will simply be something you know. Within a few days after an event, have a conversation with the person who invited you, and chat about the people you met, and what your impressions were. This is a good time to fill in the blanks you may have left over, too, such as details about which location someone works at, or where someone went to school. If you connect afterward on social media with people you meet at events, send a little "It was nice chatting with you" message. If you collect business cards at the events, keep them handy on your desk, and occasionally flip through them like flash cards, reminding yourself of where and when you met each person, and what you spoke about.

If you do forget someone's name at an event, don't fake it. Ask a mutual acquaintance for the person's name, or just begin your conversation with, "I know we've spoken, but could you please tell me again what your name is?" We're all in the same boat at these things, and we've all been there, so it is unlikely that you will be judged for needing a little reminder.

For many of us, in-person professional networking events are necessary facets of thriving and growing in our careers, even if our primary motivation for attendance is making happy the people who invite us. If you find them to be a chore, put your best face on them and on yourself, and keep yourself open to new ideas and relationships. Get yourself out there and see what you have to offer. Someone out there needs what you have to offer; don't keep it hidden behind a computer screen.


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Professional Networking: Tips For Networking Events, Part 1 - Executive Leadership Articles

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