Effective networking can produce great results. It can help you meet future employers, get you on the path to making professional acquaintances in your field, foster collaboration, and promote growth.
We all know those people who are experts at networking. They work the room and make the connections, all while making it look so easy. For others, it doesn’t come naturally, and some extra support is needed. Networking has been crucial to my success equation, but it wasn’t and still isn’t easy for me.
I want you to get out there and start feeling successful with networking. To help you, I’m going to give you some tips that have helped me find success. After reading this post you are going to know that networking is about quality connection, you’ll have some start questions and know who to approach first. You will also know what I aim for at networking events and how that goal can help make it less scary!
Quality Over Quantity
Networking doesn’t have to be intimidating and can be a lot of fun. Keep in mind though it’s not just a numbers game, in networking quality is always better then quantity.
Getting your network of connections to work with you and for you involves getting to know them and letting them get to know you. Making a true connection is more than just exchanging names and a handshake!
You need to build trust, if your connections don’t really know anything about you, your goals and interests, they can’t speak up on your behalf when the time is right. They also can’t connect you with the right person/opportunity. You also can’t be a good connection and do the same for them!
This is why, networking only to collect a massive number of business cards isn’t effective.
Choosing Who to Approach First While Networking
Unless it’s an event sponsored by your place of employment, chances are you won’t know anyone at the first few events you attend.
If I don’t know anyone at an event, I will start by being social with those that I am sitting around or waiting in line with as many of these events offer a lunch or appetizers, depending on the venue and time of day.
After you exchange names and introductions, some good open-ended conversation starters are always helpful. Open-ended questions get the other person talking, then you can use things they say to come up with other questions or conversation points to keep things moving.
Here are some questions to get you started:
- What got you involved with the organization or event?
- Have you been to this event before? If so, how do you like it so far or how is this event compared to the last one?
- Are there other events you can recommend?
- What led you to your profession?
- Where are you from?
Networking At Non-Profit Events
It’s a good idea to pay attention to the type of event you are attending and who is putting it on.
If it’s an event put on by a non-profit, I have had a ton of success researching the organization and meeting their board members at the event. Non-profit organizations typically have their board members, their roles, and contact information on their website which is helpful knowledge to have ahead of time. These people are great resources because they are in the know and can introduce you to other connections at the event. Board members are there to socialize and talk to people about the organization they represent, so they should be easy to talk to and will usually be helpful, enthusiastic conversationalists.
These are questions I will ask board members to get the conversation going:
- How long have you been on the board or involved with the organization?
- How did you originally get involved?
- What role do you fill on the board?
The rest of the conversation usually comes naturally.
Networking At Training Events
I have attended many training events, and these are fantastic places to make new connections. There are tons of other people at training events looking to learn something, just like you are. In my experience, these people don’t usually attend in a group, so this is a great opportunity to connect with other people in a less intimidating way!
These are questions I will ask to get the conversation going at a training event:
- Who are you with (organization, employer, etc.)?
- Learn more about what they do, (what is your role within the organization)?
- Have you attended other trainings, if so, which ones?
- Can you recommend other great trainings to attend?
Some of the trainings I’ve attended have been full of people that don’t really need to be there, they are already very educated in their field. They are just super passionate about what they do, growing and learning. These are great people to connect with because they are like-minded when it comes to growth mindset!
The Networking Pay Off!
Now that I’ve been networking for a while, I have a solid foundation of connections and acquaintances, which is extremely helpful. This is what you’re aiming for. After your first few events, you should have the beginning of a foundation of quality connections. Having your foundation pays off when you attend events and can get help meeting new people from your existing connections.
When I attend events, one or more of my connections is usually in attendance. Seeing someone you know is always fun and it makes networking a lot easier.
Your connections will be able to introduce you to who they know and now you have a potential new connection. Your existing connections can be really valuable at providing the insider knowledge you need. Think of this, if each of your foundation connections knows 5 people at the event that they can introduce you too, that’s 5 potential connections. If each of those new connections knows 5 people who you can also meet, you’ll be working the room in no time.
Remember, you have also been attending events so you can also be a connector!
No More Intimidation From Networking
Networking doesn’t have to be intimidating anymore! I’ve given you some great tips to make networking successful. You now have ideas for conversation starters to practice and make your own. You also know who I look for at events to get started.
Now, get out there and give it a try. Pay attention to what feels right for you.. You’ve got this!
Leave us a comment and let us know your top networking tip. If there is a topic you would like to see covered, let us know that too!
Have fun networking!
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