A few months ago after I launched Boss & Tonic, I attended a networking event for bloggers. At the time I didn’t know any bloggers in the Boston area, and was a little intimidated. I was so nervous that I called my mom an hour before practically in the midst of a nervous breakdown. What did I have to offer to the many accomplished women attending the event? What was my elevator pitch?
I walked into the event, counted to three (keep reading to find out more about the 3 second rule), and headed straight for a group of girls who looked just as nervous as I was. By the end of the event I had met my first Bosslady. I still get nervous every time I go to an event by myself, but each time I do I leave feeling a little more confident, and usually end up with some great connections.
Here are my top 10 tips for owning a networking event:
1. Smile: this is the hardest tip for me because I have chronic bitch face. This is quite the conundrum because I won a “Best Smile” superlative in high school (my biggest accomplishment to date) however, last night the deliveryman asked me why I was so upset, to which I replied, “this is just my face”. Through the hardships, I’ve learned that if you want to radiate positivity you don’t need to smile like someone has asked you to “say cheese” and take a photo, all you have to do is smile with your eyes (thanks Tyra). You will appear pleasant and approachable.
2. The Three Second Rule: This is my favorite tip. It’s especially effective if you’re nervous. As soon as you walk into the event count to three and then immediately approach someone. That being said, it's difficult to work up the courage to approach someone at an event. If someone makes the effort to talk to you, show your respect and appreciation by fully engaging even if they aren’t necessarily someone you'd want to talk with all night.
3. Be the Best Version of Yourself: I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Hiring managers have told me in the past that they mostly want to hire someone who they would want to get a beer with after work. These people are going to have to spend at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with you. They probably want to work with someone who is competent, and fun. Seriously, be yourself. It sounds cliché, but no one wants to hang out with a perfect, borderline fake person. I guarantee you are much more interesting, smart, and unique than you think.
4. Develop a Firm Handshake & Make Eye Contact: These things are easy to achieve, and convey confidence and competence. First impressions are everything. If you can walk into a room with a smile, maintain eye contact during conversations, and deliver a firm handshake, you will be creating your best possible first impression.
5. Ask Plenty of Questions: People love to talk about themselves. It’s a fact. Take an interest in others and they will reciprocate.
6. It’s Not All About You: As you meet people, consider what you can do for them instead of what they can do for you. Instead of looking for an opportunity to advance your agenda, work to connect other people too. Referrals are a two way street and the more you give, the more you will get.
7. Be prepared: Know your elevator pitch, but don’t over think it. Find out who will be at the event and decide who you want to talk to beforehand so you can manage your time efficiently.
8. Strive to Be Uncomfortable: If you go to an event in a group, split up. It’s easy to stick with the people you already know but you will get nothing out of it. Get out of your comfort zone.
9. Follow Up: The most important part of a networking event doesn’t occur until after the event. Following up via email is how you’re going to build relationships. If you don’t intend on following up, save yourself the trouble because there’s really no reason you should be attending the event in the first place.
10. Be Type A: I am the furthest thing from a Type A person that you can imagine, but when it comes to networking I try to stay extremely organized. Create a spreadsheet with names, emails, phone numbers, twitter handles, and notes on how you met, what you discussed, etc. When you need to contact someone in the future you won’t have to fumble through old business cards that you’ve collected. This will help your network grow exponentially, and you’ll have a visual record of how much progress you’ve made.
What are your favorite networking tips? Share in the comments below.
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