Summer is here and we’re all a little more relaxed, a little more adventurous, a little more passionate about whatever comes our way. It is also the time we become more open to socializing and when we tend to engage in conversations with strangers. Back in the day, people would talk with each other on the street without giving it too much of a thought. Nowadays, we have networking events or social gatherings we attend to find new acquaintances, potential friends, business opportunities or even new employment. And so, let’s talk a little about networking and the steps we should take to make it a successful one.
I used to dread networking events for the simple fact that I never knew the crowd and its interests. I would roam about the room, chat here, chat there, have a little drink, then look at the clock to see when it was acceptable to head back home. With time, I realized I needed a little strategy to help me transform one “awkward” event into a pleasant and interesting one.
So, my dears, tried-and-retried, I present to you my list of pro-tips to follow to be able to enjoy your time at a networking event, as well as score some good-stuff business cards out there:
- Do a little research on the event you are attending
It never hurts to be aware what the event will be about, so go Google that topic out, see if there were any past events from the same organizer with the same title, see what they really do during that event, so that you’ll have a little time to prepare topics for conversation, or decide if you want to go at all, in the end. Also, don’t forget about the dress-code!
- Be authentic
The best thing a person can do during a networking event is being themselves! Believe me, the right people will always notice you, will always approach you, and you will have that conversation that wows you to your core. You know, exactly like in movies, when two soul mates meet, sparkles fly and they live forever and ever happy together. There’s only one YOU, so let yourself flow.
- Say hello and smile to everyone
This represents more of an invitation for the other persons to approach you – a little prelude to a potentially fruitful conversation. I have one golden rule when I go to events – never look gloomy and never deny a conversation, as you never know what might spring out of an encounter! This also represents a sign of your politeness (read: not fakeness), and openness to explore.
- Don’t jump into discussing heavy stuff right from the beginning
When you finally score a partner to talk to, start off by presenting yourself then asking some general questions. When the atmosphere warms up and the conversation becomes lit, you can move to questions about their interests, job experiences (if relevant), advice about X or Y, or just anything you came to obtain from that event.
- Don’t drink too much!
I know, I know, we all enjoy a little drink or two, and it’s only natural to keep on sipping when the night goes on so great and easily. But, please, don’t get too animated and order one drink after another, but rather use your same glass of deliciousness for the purposes of: 1) touching or rubbing the glass when you’re nervous meeting someone for the first time or approaching a person; 2) holding it tighter when you get a little emotional; 3) changing it from one hand to another when you don’t know what to do with your hands or when you don’t want to appear like you’re lost. As a conclusion, one glass of something can be your buddy for the night, your multi-functional object that gets you from nervous to relaxed through the simple fact of “being there for you”.
- Don’t forget to exchange business cards
If you still don’t have a (personal) business card, it’s time you make yourself a bunch. You don’t need to have a reason to make one, no matter your profession or activity (even if you’re unemployed). Having a business card represents your gateway to future opportunities. So, at the end of a discussion, don’t forget to ask for a business card from you interlocutor and offer yours in return.
- Say thank you to the host
When the event comes to its end, or you have to leave earlier, take a moment to thank the host or the organizer for the wonderful evening and the opportunity of being part of their gathering. If you don’t know them personally, they might not remember you, but they’ll sure appreciate the gesture. And, many times, as it happens in life, you’ll most probably meet them somewhere someday, you’ll remind them of that evening and they’ll sure remember you that time.
- Follow-up with people and be sincere
The following day after the event, do a little follow-up with the people you exchanged business cards with and are most interested in, and be sincere regarding what you liked about your evening together. There might be times when you won’t hear any reply back, which is fine and only natural. Yet, the right people will always answer and keep in touch with you. From then on, it will be in your power to maintain those relationships arising, nurture them and support them with all humanly resources possible.
As for me, since I settled in Montreal, I was able to grow a beautiful network of very special people, who are very successful in their fields of activity, from whom I have the chance to learn a bunch of useful stuff, whom I admire and whom I support through thin and thick.
And so, now you have your “super” list ready, so keep on daring and start networking!