Welcome to Networking 101

I would like to thank my friend Brian for giving me the idea to write this post.
We were at a friend’s birthday party on Saturday and he had a name tag on the left side of his chest from an event earlier that day.

I said to him, “did you know that your name tag should go on the right side of your chest because that’s the hand you use in a handshake?” He smiled and agreed.  The next time you shake hands with someone, pay attention to the direction you’re looking at. If you’re shaking hands with your right hand, you’ll gaze in the opposite right direction, and vice versa.

Networking can be a little intimidating at times. It’s a lot of fun and it gets easier with practice. Keep these eight tips in mind the next time you attend a networking event.

Set expectations
What is it that you want to get out of the event? Do you want to feel the vibe of an organization? Or do you want to meet five new people? Don’t break your promise to yourself by getting discouraged; this is your time to shine!

Practice your story
Describe yourself in 30 seconds or less; think of this as an elevator speech. If a potential employer met you in an elevator and asked what you do, what would you say? Practicing this speech consistently will give you the confidence to continue the conversation.

“May I join you?”
As an ambivert, I have my shy and outgoing moments. I enjoy attending networking events by myself because it takes me out of my comfort zone. At first, it took me a lot of courage to join circles of people, (because I didn’t want to interrupt the conversation) but all it really takes is, “may I join you?” Everyone at a networking event is there for one reason: to build a network- stand in a circle, listen intently and contribute to the conversation when a topic applies to you.

Ask for an introduction
You spot an acquaintance you’ve met before talking to the CEO of a multi-million dollar company you’ve been following on Twitter. You ask for an introduction; now it’s up to you to build rapport and converse to establish a relationship- plain and simple.

Do your research
If there’s a panel of speakers at an event, research their Twitter and LinkedIn so you can get an idea of who they are as a person and what they can offer you. More importantly, if you share a common interest, that will be a helpful spark in a conversation.

Be engaged
Listen intuitively; nod your head and reassure the speaker that you’re actively listening. When you start a conversation, don’t attempt to do an awkward business pitch. Instead, ask the person why they attended the event. Dig deeper and ask about their line of work and what they like about it. Once you have formed a relationship, it will be easier for you to talk about yourself; they will be interested in you because you were interested in them.

Business cards
Don’t hand out your business cards to anyone. If you feel like you have developed a connection with someone and want to take your relationship to the next step, hand him or her a card. It also helps to write down any important information acquired on the back of the card. For every networking event I attend, I bring at least 10 business cards with me so I can determine how many people I meet. At the end of the day, I would rather talk to one or two people that I can really get to know, but it doesn’t hurt to set high goals.

Follow up
After any meeting or event, you MUST follow up within 48 hours. Simply send a quick email saying you enjoyed meeting them and reflect back on a point in the conversation. It doesn’t have to be long or formal, just get the ball moving. For a more personal touch, send them a handwritten thank you card. Also, add the person on LinkedIn. Who knows? One connection can open multiple doors; it’s up to you to figure out which door you want to open.

What’s your ritual before a networking event? Comment below if you have any other networking tips; I’d love to hear them. Enjoy your day and happy networking!

~ PG, xo.

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