In last week’s blog, we discussed the first three steps of the networking strategy. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, you can access it here. This week, we’re going to talk about what to do during the actual networking meeting.
Going to networking events makes a lot of people nervous, so if you’re feeling a little unsure about yourself, don’t worry it’s completely normal. There are some things you can do to prepare for the networking event that will help you feel more confident and help you come across professionally. Let’s go through them here.
Step 4: Prepare for the networking meeting
Before you go to your networking event, make sure you prepare for the event by doing the following:
- Do your research: Do as much research about the networking event as possible. Try to get an idea of what type of people attend this meeting, what the format looks like, and the how people dress. You can find this information out by going to the website or contacting the organizers.
- Develop an elevator speech: If you’ve never heard this term before, an elevator speech is a brief or clear message about you. They call it an elevator speech because you should be able to share the message in about as much time as it takes to change floors in an elevator. This is typically about 30 seconds. A good elevator speech should convey the following:
- Who you are
- Background information
- Reason why you are attending the evnet.
Job Seeker Outline:
“Hi, my name is ___________.” I recently worked for ________organization doing ________ and _________. Currently, I am looking to switch careers and am looking to learn more about the profession. I thought this networking event would provide me some good insight into the field.
Hi, my name is ___________.” I help _________ achieve_____________.
- Networking Questions: In addition to an elevator speech, having a few networking questions ready to ask others can help you start up a conversation. Here are some example questions:
- What do you currently do for work?
- How did you get into this field?
- What do you like most about your position?
- What advice would you give to someone looking for work in this field?
- Business Cards: If you have business cards, make sure to bring them. If you don’t have business cards, you can purchase them pretty inexpensively online or print out your own. But it’s important to have some sort of business card that you can provide people as you are meeting them. For job seekers, you can access a customized networking business card maker from Vista Prints here.
Once you’ve completed the previous steps, you’re ready for your meeting!
Step 5: Engaging in Conversations
- Approaching People: When you arrive at the networking event, it’s important that you actively participate. No one likes to be the person sitting at the side of the room waiting for others to approach them. One thing you can do to start out, would be to seek out the organizer of the event and introduce yourself. Organizers are often very open to meeting new individuals interested in the organization and most likely will introduce you to others in the networking group. If the organizer is busy, look for individuals who aren’t talking and go up and introduce yourself to them. These individuals are probably just as uncomfortable as you and would welcome a conversation.
- You can also look at the group dynamics and try to find different groups to join. The figure to the right shows both open groups and closed groups. Open groups are groups of people that are physically configured openly to allow others to join their group. These individuals are either consciously or unconsciously sending out a signal to others around them that they are willing to have others join. The closed group configuration often occurs when individuals are either in a focused conversation or discussing something private. Take the time to identify the groups and choose an open group that you are interested in joining.
- Introductions: If approaching and individual, introduce yourself right away and allow the other individual to introduce themself. This is the time to use the elevator speech that you created earlier. If you have approached a group, wait until an appropriate time in the conversation when the previous discussion has died down, to introduce yourself.
- Dialogue: Once you’ve both introduced yourselves, this is the time to have a dialogue and get to know one another. If you’re uncertain how to begin the conversation, using the networking questions you’ve already created is a great way to start. Many people are nervous about what to say. But I’ve found that if you remember a few key questions, it can open up the dialogue in an open and authentic way.
Step 6: Navigating the room
In my personal opinion, you should focus on quality over quantity when meeting new people at networking engagements. If, after awhile, it feels like the conversation is coming to a close, ask for a business card and then introduce yourself to someone new. But, it’s important to never rush a conversation because you feel that you need to move on to another person. Remember, the purpose of networking is to develop relationships, not collect as many business cards as you can! If you focus on the long-game, you eventually will have a large and diverse network. But, if you try to rush it, you’ll just end up with a bunch of business cards you can’t do anything with.
Next week, we’ll talk about what to do after the networking meeting to follow-up with the people you’ve met. And how to start developing a networking of quality relationships with other professionals.