7 Tips To Help You Slay Networking
Anyone else get a little anxious just seeing the word networking?
You’re definitely not alone.
Networking has become increasingly important in today’s world of never ending connections and relationships. However, it’s hardly something that is easy for the bulk of us. We stress, worry about interrupting others and the cringe at the death defying idea of approaching a random to chat biz.
But you’d be surprised at how many of those figurative doors, you’ve heard so much about, can be open via a cheeky networking event.
So I’ve handpicked a handful of tips to make your next awkward Thursday drinks a fabulous success.
1 // Small Talk Is An Easy Approach
Ah, the approach. Probably the hardest thing about networking for a lot of people is breaking that initial barrier to start talking to someone. But how do you actually start up the chat without apparently being ‘rude’? Small talk is key.
Are they wearing something interesting (a floral jacket, nice kicks, a trendy little scarf or tweed blazer)? Maybe they are deciding what to pick from the finger food options or are standing by themselves. All ammunition, so think:
“So sorry, but just wanted to say that I love your jacket!”
“Your shoes are fab, sorry I just had to tell you!”
“Mate, the chicken skewers are to die for.”
“Hey there! Sorry to bother, but I saw you by yourself and thought I’d come say hi!”
You might cringe inside, but all definite winners to break the ice. A bit of small talk ensues, then all you need to do is introduce yourself and boom, you’re in.
2 // Ask Different Questions (Please)
Now while the regular “So… what do you do?” Line isn’t unacceptable; I’d certainly try to avoid it when you can. And it’s just about phrasing that sentiment differently, because imagine how many other people will ask them that during the night.
Ask them how they heard about the event, about something that’s happened during the event so far, about the venue, what industry they are in, what they’re up to for the rest of the night/week, about their previous career etc. It’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll both mention what you do for work, so let it happen organically as opposed to forcing it at the start. You’ll also be far more memorable.
3 // You Need A Positive Pitch
This is essentially tip 2.1, and is very much related to the above point – but you absolutely need to try and have a positive pitch. What does this mean? It means when its your turn to say what you do for work, your pitch is engaging and delivers a positive response. What you want to avoid is a flat response – this is networking fails 101.
Whatever it is you do, you want to deliver it in a way that will legitimately excite, intrigue or impress the person/s you’re talking too. There is nothing worse than getting the flat response of “Oh okay that’s good.” / “Oh nice.” / “Oh cool, that must be fun.” These are all pretty shitty responses that suggest the other person isn’t really that engaged. Now, it doesn’t always mean it’s your fault (they just could be in a mood, we’ve all been there), but you should be doing everything you can to make sure that your personal pitch is different, passionate and interesting.
4 // They Might Not Be Directly Relevant, But They Can Be Helpful
I hear a lot of friends mention how they’ll go to networking events and not meet enough relevant people. This is one of the biggest bullshit reasons I’ve ever heard. It’s nothing but a bad excuse to not go to more events in the future.
While you will no doubt attend networking events where the people you meet don’t work in a relevant industry as you, or have much relevance to your job itself – it doesn’t mean that those people are bad contacts. By complete mistake I went to a medical networking night when I was in San Francisco once, and I was thinking what a waste of a night. From that I met a doctor who I’ve stayed in touch with since and has provided me with contacts in a few different industries. Everyone has some worth, whether you realise it now or not.
5 // People In A Group Won’t Get Pissed If You Approach Them
Contrary to popular belief, groups of people at networking events aren’t going to shun you away if you approach them. And let’s be honest, if they do, they’re probably not worth any effort.
In saying that, it can be tough to do this especially if you’re solo. So I’d recommend bringing a colleague or friend with you to an event if you’re worried about social anxiety (I’ve certainly had my moments!) Approach groups together and just get involved. They’re there for the same reason as you.
6 // Have A ‘Move On’ Strategy
Okay so straight up this might sound like a bit of a slack move, but you need a move on strategy for networking. Maybe leave this till you’ve had some experience at certain events, but its super handy when you want to ‘speed meet’ people.
For example at conferences and big events that might feature a lot of potentially interesting contacts, it’s often best to move fast. You want to be speaking to multiple people, as opposed to becoming besties with the person sitting next to you (not that this is discouraged!) Basically these are little one-liners when you want to try and move on to a new conversation”
“Mate been a pleasure, I’m just going to grab a drink, here’s my card and definitely keen to stay in touch!”
“I just have to duck out for a quick call, but let’s tee up a coffee soon.”
“I do have to run, but do you have a card? Be great to keep in contact.”
Arm yourself with business cards and fire off lines like these, get their details and add them on LinkedIn. Be aware of your situation of course, but these generally are non-rude and subtle ways to move on and meet more people.
7 // Everyone Is There For The Same Reason As You
This is the bread and butter. While it can seem daunting, while it may seem people don’t give a shit about you, while it may seem very confronting – everyone at networking events is there for the same reasons as you.
So push yourself, get out of the comfort zone and go meet people. Get rid of the pre-conceived ideas and explore. You never know what fab individual you could meet next..
Image Source: Millennial 20-20