If the idea of walking into a room of strangers fills you with dread, you're not alone.
Networking – especially by yourself – can seem impossibly intimidating. Add fancy suits, new locations, unfamiliar faces and unknown topics into the mix, and it’s easy to drop networking in the too-hard basket and stay at home.
However, you’re not going to raise your professional profile, build your confidence, get fresh perspectives, or meet the person who offers you your next role by staying at home.
With in-person events slowly making a comeback, it’s time to embrace networking and the boundless benefits it offers.
Contact spoke to Client Services Manager of UQ Business School Remi Descamps, and UQ Young Alumni Advisory Board members Catherine Rosenberg and Genevieve Nolan to seek their advice on how to approach your next networking event.
We have combined all their tips into this easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide.
We’d wish you luck, but after this advice, you won’t even need it.
Before you arrive, do this
- Update your LinkedIn profile and pack your business cards.
- If you can, look at the attendee list and identify who you’d like to meet.
- Set an objective, for example, to meet three new people or to practice introducing yourself or your business.
- Dress with confidence. Look good, feel good – right!?
“Get yourself in the right headspace to meet new people. They’ll likely be feeling the same way so remember to show confidence and interest through a friendly demeanour!”
You’ve arrived, now what?
As intimidating as it may seem, many people go to networking events alone. Our experts recommends taking a deep breath, smiling and introducing yourself. Here’s how:
- “Hi, my name is ________, how are you?”
- Make eye contact, smile and give them a brief but firm handshake (or COVID-safe equivalent).
- Listen when they say their name. Cement it in your memory by saying it back to them and using it at least once more during your conversation.
“Come open-minded and ready to speak about yourself/your work/your achievements confidently but also be ready to learn. Asking other people questions is always way more fun than rabbit-ing on about yourself!”
Generally, the discussion will flow from there (we promise!). But it’s always handy to have some open-ended questions to get the ball rolling. Here’s a few questions that our UQ experts recommend:
- How did you hear about this event?
- What brought you to the event?
- How did you find the presentation/exhibition/conference?
- Do you know much about [insert event topic]?
- What do you do for work?
- Are you working on anything exciting at the moment?
- How did you get involved in your field?
- What made you decide to take on your current role?
- How do you like working for your company?
- What advice would you give to someone looking to break into your industry?
If you’re meeting someone you admire, try opening the conversation with a work-related compliment.
Okay, the convo is wrapping up. How do you leave without it being awkward?
We’ve all been here. At some point, the conversation runs dry and the awkward silence slips in. Before that happens, use these smooth transitions:
- I promised myself I would meet three new people this evening. Who would you suggest I talk to next?
- It’s been really nice meeting you. Do you have a business card I could hang onto?
- I’ve got a few people to tick off on my list tonight, so I’ll keep moving. But it was really great to meet you. I hope you won’t mind if I add you on LinkedIn?
“Be sure to thank them for the chat and make plans to touch base at a future event.”
Image: Kzenon/Adobe Stock
Woo, you survived the event! Time to seal the deal
You’ve done the hard work (well done!), now it’s time to reap the benefits with a few follow-ups.
- Add your new connection on LinkedIn, with a tailored message. Something like:
- If you added them at the event, send a follow-up message a few days later. Mention something specific about your conversation, that you enjoyed meeting them and you look forward to staying connected.