Did you know 85% of jobs are actually filled through networking? Unfortunately, for most people, networking isn’t at the top of their “favorite things to do” list, especially networking events. It’s common to feel anxious before, uncomfortable during, and relieved after an event ends. However, networking and talking to new people are often a big part of life, so it’s best to not only get used to it, but to make the most of it!
Here’s how to prepare for before, during, and after a networking event.
- Develop people skills and you’ll feel more ready to conquer a networking event. I recommend the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
- Understand that most people also are fearful, so prepare to walk up to someone and introduce yourself. Trust me, they’ll be relieved.
- Attend with a learning mindset.
- Boost your confidence. Do whatever makes you feel good about yourself. That could be exercising, painting, getting a haircut, etc.
- Bring business cards.
- If you really need the support, invite a friend. It’ll be easier to break the ice and have conversations if someone you know and are comfortable around is there too.
- Boldly join conversations. People tend to welcome you in if you walk up to them. Wait for a pause and introduce yourself. If you see someone alone, talk to them. That’s an easy conversation starter, you’d also want someone to walk up to you if you were alone.
- Get a drink. It doesn’t need to be alcoholic, you’ll feel more relaxed if your hands are occupied.
- 55% of communication is body language. So when meeting someone, smile, make eye contact, and offer a handshake.
- Find common ground. This is the fastest way to connect with someone.
- When in doubt, ask questions. People love talking about themselves and they’ll appreciate you’re genuinely interested. You could ask about their hobbies, occupation, family, etc.
- Ask, “Who do you know that I should?” It’s all about who you know, and you never know who could introduce you to who. For example, I met someone at a networking event and they helped me get an interview at the company they worked at.
- Reflect on how the event went. What went well, what was awkward? Build upon that for the next event.
- Follow up. Most people don’t, so it’ll be impressive that you do.
- Connect on social. It’ll help you keep up-to-date with the people you meet. You never know where that could lead.
- Grab a coffee with people you want to pursue a relationship with.
- Keep business cards for future reference.
- Keep the connection relevant. Reach out in a few months and say hello.
Like anything else, practice makes progress. You can prepare all you want for networking events, but attending is the only way it’ll get easier. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and you’ll become a networking master! What tips do you have to ease the networking stress?