You think you should attend. You know it will be good for you. But when you arrive at “the networking event” you are asking yourself “why am I even here”? I’d rather have needles stuck in my eye. Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But, you know what I mean.
So before you run screaming from the room, remember that there is a reason you are there. To network, right? To make some good connections, right? Right?
So, do that! And if you do it well, the next time you may find yourself not dreading an event, but actually looking forward to it!
To get over the dread and into the swing of networking, here are some tips to get the most out the opportunity.
6 Ways to get the most out of networking
1) Adopt the right attitude.
Instead of thinking of all the reasons why you do not want to be there, remember that this is a great opportunity to make some connections. You will get out of it what you put into it, so get energized and adopt a “let’s do it” attitude.
Be pleasant and take a sincere interest in others and you will easily connect in a way that allows you to share what you have to offer and gather a new resource.
2) Be prepared.
Take plenty of business cards. There is nothing more embarrassing then finding the perfect person you want to connect with and searching for a napkin to write their name on. And, don’t forget to include in your contact information your social networking links (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter). That will make your follow-up much easier.
3) If you don’t know what to say, just listen and ask a few questions.
Part of the reason so many people dislike networking is that they think they have to know what to say. Most people like to talk. So, let them. Just listen if you aren’t sure of what to say.
Have a set of questions you ask, example: “What field do you work in?; What’s the biggest challenge your industry is facing right now? What do you like most about your job?” Then, shush – use your listening skills to learn how you can mutually benefit each other.
4) Have at least one goal for the event.
Before you attend the event, think of one thing you would like to walk away with. Maybe it’s as simple as meeting one person you have something in common with. Or maybe it is that you’d like to meet three prospective mentors or clients. Whatever it is, decide before you go so you have a plan to get the most out of your time.
5) Make notes for next time.
Every interaction you make is an opportunity to learn something. Write down what went well and what you could do better next time. Set your goals for the next event while they are fresh in your mind.
6) Follow-up! Follow-up! Follow-up!
Most people miss the most important step of all! If you don’t follow-up right away, you might as well have skipped the event. People are busy and have short memories. Within 24 hours, send an email, connect on their preferred social media site, or make a call to the people you met. Let them know you enjoyed meeting them and talk about how you can help each other.
Then, celebrate and get ready for the next networking opportunity! You rock!
Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.
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