When you hear the word “networking”, do you get a sudden tightness in your stomach? If so, that’s a pretty standard reaction. I’ve attended many networking events in my professional life, and I’ve realized… they can be a lot of work!
But, with just a bit of planning ahead of time, you can make the process easier by taking some of the work out of networking.
Here are a few tips to help you maximize your next event:
Research Attendees in Advance
If at all possible, obtain a list of the event registrants. You’ll want to create a target list of critical connections, those that you should “bump” into, and individuals who would be nice to meet, but aren’t crucial to your success. Keep the list manageable. A list with 100 people is nearly impossible to maintain. Focus on the critical few, not the insignificant many.
Look them up on LinkedIn or through a Google search. You’d be amazed at how much easier it is to find someone when you’ve seen their picture on their LinkedIn profile (remember to send a short, personalized connection request!)
Have a Wingman (or Woman)
You can’t do it alone. Well, I guess you can do whatever you put your mind to, but I’m telling you it won’t be easy without a connection point. That’s the role of the wingman. It’s kind of like on How I Met Your Mother when Barney introduces Ted at parties…”haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaavvvve you met Ted?”
Pick a wingman who knows the audience and can help introduce you to connections of interest. Having someone facilitate an introduction can do wonders. It will make you less anxious about meeting new people. Plus, if the person introducing you has credibility (aim for someone who does…) then you inherit a bit of that credibility with the person you’re meeting. Win-win. Be sure to thank your wingman.
Utilize Traditional and Non-traditional Connection Methods
LinkedIn is my go-to resource, but not everyone has a profile. Don’t limit yourself. Case in point: I made two very important business connections recently at a conference simply because I followed the event’s Twitter hashtag. They were tweeting the good stuff, so I checked their profile and sent them a short @reply asking if we could meet at the next networking break by the big orange table in the exhibit hall. Both replied and both showed up!
In this case, social media was very helpful. Don’t forget about the trusty telephone. If you pick it up and call the person so that you can secure a meeting time, even better. Don’t be a pest. Just be nice and keep the conversation short. They have their own networking list.
I’m serious…DO IT. The majority of people never follow up after an initial meeting. That’s a hard fact that blows my mind! Why would you NOT follow up? Even if the person did not really fit on your list of critical connections, they may know someone who does. Keep the lines of communication open and send them a quick “nice to meet you” note. This should be easy for you. You got their business card, right??
Networking isn’t rocket science. Well, unless you’re networking with rocket scientists. For the rest of us, it’s simply interacting with people, building relationships around shared interests. That’s it. So the next time you sign up for a networking event, go with a plan. People will notice and appreciate your efforts, which could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
PS. Don’t forget to have breath mints and wash/sanitize your hands frequently. It’s flu season and you don’t want germs, nor do you want your breath to arrive before you do!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Campus to Career!
About the Author: Kirk Baumann is a passionate recruiting advocate preparing the next generation of talent for the career of their dreams. He’s a social media enthusiast who loves technology and how it’s connecting people in ways like never before. Kirk currently serves as Vice President, Career Services for Enactus United States (formerly known as SIFE). There, he helps Fortune 500 & 100 companies recruit top talent for their organizations as well as helping students, alumni, and young professionals find their dream job. Follow Kirk on Twitter!