Last week I had the opportunity to meet many new friends and fellow business professionals at a GRYP – Grand Rapids Young Professionals meet-up. Within a few of the groups I got to meet, there was some conversation about do’s and don’ts of networking events. I kept mental notes on what tips were discussed and I wanted to share them with you as a job seeker or business professional in hopes that you will make your next networking event a successful venture.
1. Don’t be nervous – stay positive. It’s easy to get nervous, but when you get nervous you become more unapproachable and easily forgotten. If you can’t get past the nerves make sure you follow tip #2, as a friend can help you feel more comfortable in these networking situations.
2. Bring a friend – Nothing is worse than walking into a situation where you don’t have someone as a back-up. If no one is available to attend with you, find the nearest person by themselves and pick something out as a conversation piece whether it’s the logo on their shirt or asking what type of drink they have in their hand.
3. Take time to meet the event host – The event host is likely one of the more connected people at the meet-up and can point you in the right direction or offer a suggestion of who to talk to next.
4. Go light on the beverages – Many networking events happen in a setting where alcohol is involved. Everyone knows that alcohol will help make the nerves go away, but I find the best way to go is to have two beers and then switch to water. Other people have suggested to get a vodka tonic and then just have them fill the same glass with water instead so it can give the illusion that it is alcohol in the glass.
5. Stay as long as you feel comfortable – No one is going to judge you for staying for too short of a time and no one is going to say, “Man I saw that guy earlier and he is still here.” If someone says that, then they have been at the event just as long as you have.
6. Don’t form a circle – The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a circle as – a closed plane curve every point of which is equidistant. CLOSED means there is no gap or opportunity for you to include new people, which defeats the purpose of going to networking events. If you notice your group is closed, take the opportunity to look around every few minutes to make sure someone isn’t waiting for an opportunity to meet with people in the group.
7. Move around – Sitting in one place will hinder your chances at meeting other people throughout the room. So take an opportunity to go to the other side of the area you are in to meet fresh faces and connect with more professionals.
8. Bring personal business cards – Easy to exchange and offer to potential employers when you are having a conversation. For $20 you can make a clean and simple business card that should include:
- Your Name
- Your Address
- Your Email
- Your Phone Number
- Your Degree
- For experienced workers: Use the back to highlight some former job titles so they can associate any jobs to your old titles
9. Say goodbye – Not to everyone, but anyone you had a really great conversation with or someone you felt was important. If you didn’t get their information or ask to talk again with them at another time this would be the opportunity.
What are your favorite tips for working the room at networking events? Please share!