By Caroline Creedon
For most of us, face-to-face networking seems daunting, especially coming out of a pandemic where in-person small talk was entirely avoided for nearly two years. But the fact is networking events are back and in many ways, they’re better than ever!
I sat down with networking expert Kacie Brignell to bring you all the tips and tricks to prepare yourself to grow your network with confidence. By tuning into the right headspace and prepping yourself to meet new people, you’re setting yourself up for networking success.
Whether you’ve been to a million networking events in the past or you’re about to head to your very first one, those butterflies in your stomach aren’t enough to stop you from showing up as your best self.
Think about this for a moment. What’s one reason you’d go to a networking event in the first place? (Hint: No matter who you are, the answer isn’t simply “to network.”)
Whether you’re heading to an event to meet potential leads, build connections with other industry partners, meet your competitors, chat with like-minded people, or all the above, there’s a lot to gain from getting to those events whenever you have the chance.
If you’re someone who’s thinking “I’d never go networking in person,” what’s one reason these events aren’t on your radar?
For a lot of us, the reason we don’t take advantage of these key networking opportunities is that feeling of being unprepared or the uneasiness of being in a room full of strangers. Kacie offered some great advice to combat that fear of the unknown and hype yourself up to network like a pro.
So what’s the first step to making the most of a networking event?
- Research the event.
Start with simple things like finding out where it is exactly and where you’re going to park or how you’re going to get there. Nothing’s going to fluster you quite like being late.
Is it going to have a structured agenda or is it more of a laid-back mingling type of event? You might even like to get as specific as knowing whether or not there’ll be refreshments served.
2. Find out who’s going.
If the attendee list is available, such as on a social media event page, do your research! See who might be a good person to connect with and come prepared to carry a conversation.
3. Bring your business cards.
It may sound old-fashioned, but when the time comes to give out your contact info, having a physical card handy can be a huge advantage. If not, no worries. Whip out your LinkedIn app and get connected digitally. Don’t be afraid to send a quick message after the event too just to remind them who you are and where you met.
Psst… Networking events are tax deductible!
Okay, so you’re ready to say yes to an in-person networking event. What’s next? Learning how to introduce yourself. Probably sounds obvious, I know, but there are a few key tips Kacie shared to set yourself apart in a crowd simply by knowing how to introduce yourself in the most effective way possible.
First off, how you introduce yourself will depend on the format of the event you’re attending. If it’s a more structured event when you’re given a chance to “formally” introduce yourself to the group, here’s a quick formula to prepare your intro:
- Your name;
- What you do (Hint: Practise getting this down to a short one-liner and keep it in your back pocket forever.);
- Why you love what you do; and
- Who your ideal client/connection is.
Here’s a good template to get you started:
“Hi, my name is <your name>. I help/work with <category of people> to <their desired outcome> by/through <what you actually do/offer>.”
Now when you’re introducing yourself one-on-one, the above template will probably come across as way too formal. Instead, find ways to expand on your job title that might encourage the person you’re speaking with to ask a question.
For instance, if you’re an engineer, try to say more than just “I’m an engineer.” Instead, you might try, “I’m an engineer, mainly for commercial projects.” This is broad enough that people have an opening to ask you to get more specific, yet it offers something more specific that hints at whether or not you might be a valuable connection for the person you’re chatting with.
Make time to practice introducing yourself in a few different ways. The goal is to learn how to explain what you do in a way that makes sense and sparks curiosity.
Armed with these tips, you can approach in-person networking events feeling like you belong in any room.
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