Tips on How to Network at Social Events

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Whether you’re just entering the professional realm, or you have a social event coming up and want to brush up on your skills, it will be important to know how to effectively network.

Most of us understand the importance of networking, but aren’t quite sure where to start.

We all remember that one awkward networking event where we were forced to talk to strangers and act interested. The truth is, networking doesn’t have to be as dreadful as you might think. If you come prepared and use the right approaches, networking is not only extremely beneficial, but it is also fun! Here are a few tips on how to network like a pro:

Have a Goal

Before you even arrive, ask yourself, “What do I hope to get out of this event?”  Brainstorm with a list of outcomes that you are hoping to get out of the event.  Don’t wander around aimlessly; instead, come prepared with a game plan.  How many people do you plan to meet?  Do you have a goal to get a new job lead?  Or maybe you’re just planning on reconnecting with colleagues and friends, and that’s fine too.

Dress to Impress

Make sure you select an outfit that is professional. People often make the mistake of dressing overly casual to these events. Make sure you don’t make this same mistake. Also, you’ll want to feel confident (especially at a place that requires you to jump out of your comfort zone). Dressing yourself to impress not only means looking professional, but also exuding confidence. So put on that brand new dress, or shoes that you’ve been wanting to wear, and get ready to shake some hands.

Bring Your Business Cards

You can never bring enough business cards with you. The last thing you want at a networking event is to run out of your business cards. Another quick tip is to keep your business cards in a card case to protect them from getting crumpled. A card case also makes it easier for you to locate your business cards. Who wants to go digging through their purse for an awkward minute trying to find a business card? Have them within easy reach and keep them crisp until the time is right.

Make a Strong and Effective Introduction

When meeting someone new, make sure you confidently introduce yourself by smiling, making eye contact, and stating your first and last name.  It is also appropriate to give a firm, but brief handshake.  After you have done so, listen to the other person’s name, and make sure you use his/her name at least two times in your conversation.  This is a helpful tactic to help you remember that person’s name.  It also helps you appear to look sincere and interested in that individual.  

Listen First

You should always listen first, then speak.  This part of networking is often overlooked.  We naturally have the urge to speak about ourselves when we first meet someone new.  However, what many people don’t realize is that when you speak first, the other person may not be fully tuned into what you’re saying.  Instead, that person may be preoccupied with what he or she is going to say when it’s their time to speak.  To avoid this from happening, just let the other person speak first, that way when it’s your time to speak, he or she will feel more relaxed and focused.

Show Interest and Sincerity

The last thing we want to do is to make ourselves seem selfish. When meeting new people at an event, we don’t want to come across as only being interested in our own job opportunities. It is useful to have a few good questions in your back pocket when meeting new people. Ask questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or no.” Use questions that ask the other person about his or her background and work. Some questions to consider are questions such as, “How do you like working for your company?” or “What projects are you working on right now?”

Get Straight to the Point

When it comes time for you to share what you do, make sure you state it in just 2-3 sentences.  Save the details for later.  It is so easy to get bored quickly in a conversation, especially when there is a detail overload.  First, build rapport with the person, then tell them any details if they ask.

Take Notes

After mingling with a few people, go to a quiet place or corner of the room, and make some quick notes on the back of each person’s business card.  Jot down notes on anything interesting that you talked about, specific details about that person, or any kind of follow-up that you would like to make with that person.  The entire purpose of a networking event is to connect with the people that you’ve met, and having these additional notes will drastically help when following up with them.

Time to Follow Up

Don’t wait a month to reconnect.  A few days after the event, it is important to send follow-up emails to anyone that you’d like to continue networking with.  Personalize each email, and let each person know that you enjoyed meeting them.  Another quick tip is to mention something that you talked about.  This is also the appropriate time to ask your new contact to meet up for an informational meeting.

Networking isn’t as bad as it seems when you come prepared.  Get the most out of your networking by using these simple strategies.  More importantly, just remember to relax and have fun!

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