Meetups, community events and parties can be great opportunities to expand your sphere of influence. But being an effective networker isn’t just about shaking hands and exchanging business cards. Whether you’re more of an introvert or have a natural gift of the gab, here are a few things you can do to network more effectively.
Have some conversation starters in mind
This is a great tip for those that might feel a bit more shy in crowds or talking to strangers. Practice a few icebreaker questions ahead of time so that you have a natural approach to keep the conversation flowing. Your introduction needn’t be deep! Go for something lighthearted and easy. Some icebreaker questions to try:
- What brings you here today?
- What motivated you to attend this event?
- How do you know so-and-so?
- What did you think of that last speaker?
- What’s been the highlight of the day/this event so far for you?
Update your website, business cards and social media profiles
If you’re attending an event where you anticipate exchanging information with many guests (which should a goal of any networking event!), make sure you have all your contact details and social media accounts up to date. Polish off your LinkedIn profile with your most recent employment and personal details. If you’re low on business cards, order a new batch to arrive before the event so that you’re well-stocked. Ensure the profile photos in your social media profiles are up to date so that new contacts will recognize you when you reach back out on those platforms.
Open with yourself, not your business
While your end goal may be to forge new relationships in the industry or generate some potential leads, introducing yourself as your business can be off-putting for some. Instead, introduce yourself without mentioning your profession and let the other person talk about themselves to guide the conversation. You could talk about your hobbies, shared interests, how you know the event host or the neighbourhoods you live in before you bring business into the conversation.
Minimize food and alcohol consumption
The open bar or delicious buffet spread is enticing, but getting sloshed during a great networking opportunity will interfere with your ability to be professional. You wouldn’t go to an interview after a few pints or with a donut in your hand, so hold yourself to a similar standard when attending an important networking event. This doesn’t mean you have to abstain entirely — a glass of wine or cup of coffee can help you feel and appear more natural while meeting new folks. But just be mindful of how much you’re consuming.