Networking events have been a part of the business world for as long as most people can remember. For some people, they are enjoyable; and for others, not so much. It’s natural to feel nervous about going to your first networking event. Even extroverts sometimes feel intimidated by meeting new people — it’s a completely normal reaction.
As we anticipate the return of in-person tradeshows such as Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) and InfoComm, here are some of our favorite tactics for improving networking at events.
- Be yourself. Networking events are designed to unite individuals, often those in the same industry or profession, and help them to build a relationship. Being your authentic self allows you to come across as genuine. You don’t want to start a relationship off with the wrong impression. The individuals you connect with over a common interest, a similar experience or a unique conversation, are the ones you’ll want to stay in touch with after the event.
- Set expectations. Is your goal to network for future business opportunities? Are you interested in gaining valuable education? Before you attend the event, think about some reasonable goals that you want to accomplish during the event. You can mentally refer to your goals to help you stay on track and focused during the event and, hopefully, leave feeling accomplished.
- Engage in conversations. Some people are better listeners and others are better at talking, but engaging in a conversation requires you to do both. When you meet new people, don’t be the one doing all the talking. Listen to others and ask relevant questions to create an engaging conversation. Maintain eye contact, nod your head in agreement, and position your body toward the individual you are conversing with.
- Take notes. If you receive a business card from someone you meet, write a note on the back about how you met them, a fun conversation you had or an interesting detail that you want to remember. This will help you to be more specific in your follow-up. Keep any business cards organized in a binder so you can refer to them later.
- Don’t try to work the room. We all know how annoying it can be to receive a random LinkedIn message from someone we’ve never met. Normally they are just trying to sell you something. The same applies to in-person networking. Don’t try to meet as many people as you possibly can. Focus on quality rather than quantity, and prioritize meaningful and engaging conversations that could lead to long-lasting relationships.
It’s essential to build and maintain a strong network of like-minded professionals in your industry — and even outside of it. Attending networking events are key to developing and nurturing a strong network. The more people you know, the more likely it is for you to connect with the right person at the right time, and this could be the catalyst to bigger things for you in the future.
Cheers to making the most out of your next networking event!