Did you know it's estimated that around 85% of all jobs are filled through networking?
If you aren't going to networking events, you need to start attending them in 2020 if you want to advance your career.
Networking may be an important part of career growth, but it's rarely something that people enjoy doing. Meeting new people can be difficult, especially when your end goal is to make professional connections.
We may not be able to guarantee that every networking event you attend will be fun, but we can give you some tips to make sure that you get the most out of each event you attend.
If you're ready to get the most out of networking events, read on to learn our top 10 tips.
10 Essential Tips for Networking Events
With the right attitude and preparation, even the most introverted person can excel at networking events.
Regardless of if you're a pro at networking or a beginner that needs help, make sure you follow these tips when you're at your next networking event.
1. Think About Your Reasons for Attending
Some people find that they don't get a lot out of the networking events they attend because they don't truly understand why they're going to them.
You could be going to the wrong events because you aren't thinking critically about why you want to be there. Before you sign up to go to any event, take some time to think about why you want to be there.
You may choose to attend an event because you want to stay up to date on industry trends. The event you're going to may be known for having great speakers and seminars. You know you're going to walk away knowing a new skill.
The event you're interested in attending could be good for building your professional network. You could be attending an event that's a veritable whos who of key people in your industry.
It's also possible that you may want to make connections with the company that's sponsoring or throwing the event. You may want to do business with them in the future, or possibly even work for them.
Once you're honest about why you're attending an event, you'll be able to get a lot more out of it. You'll be more focused on getting the right outcome, and possibly pick better events to attend in the future.
2. Stick to Your RSVP
You might have had a difficult day at work and feel drained. You're just not feeling up to networking and want a chance to unwind by yourself.
Or, maybe you're in the opposite situation. You RSVPed that you wouldn't attend and the window to register for the event is closed. Despite that, you really want to go so you decide to just show up and see what happens.
Regardless of if you RSVPed yes or no to an event, it's important to stick by what you originally said.
An emergency or unforeseen late day at work is a reason to not attend an event. But changing your mind at the last minute is another matter.
A lot of the networking events you're attending are going to be catered or may have a venue that was chosen because of the number of RSVPs the event planner received. You may even have a nametag waiting for you at check-in.
Showing up unannounced or not showing up at all can put the event organizers in an awkward place. It could also be seen as rude or tacky behavior on your end.
There will always be other networking events to attend in the future. Don't put yourself and the host in an awkward position.
3. Get in the Right State of Mind
You've just had a bad day at work and you're not over what happened. Maybe you've had a fight with your spouse and you're feeling glum. Or you could be anxious about the event and unsure of how it'll go.
Negative emotions are a part of life, and you're going to have to do your best to ensure that they don't ruin your networking experience.
Before you attend your event, do your best to try to improve your mood.
Listen to a song that always gets you energized. Watch a video on YouTube that makes you laugh. Or spend some quiet time reflecting on the day and getting into the right headspace for the event.
4. Practice Your Personal Pitch
You've been at a networking event and haven't talked to anyone worthwhile. As you stare at your phone someone you've heard a lot about approaches you, says a friendly greeting and asks you about yourself.
The moment you've been waiting for has finally arrived, and for some reason, you completely freeze up and blurt out a short and slightly confusing answer. They smile politely, then quickly find a way to excuse themselves.
If you don't like networking events, there's a pretty strong chance that this situation may have happened to you before.
You don't think it would be difficult to say that you work in event planning and are trying to learn new skills, but it's easy to be thrown off guard if you aren't comfortable.
Luckily, there's a way to prevent embarrassing yourself and missing an opportunity.
Before you head to a networking event, take some time to work on what you're going to say to people.
Think carefully about the kind of event you're going to. Take a look at the guest list to learn where people work and try to see if you find out any interests. From there, you can think of a few key things you want to say about yourself.
Once you do that, take some time to practice saying it out loud. If you're nervous around new people, taking the time to practice what you want to say can make it much easier to say at the moment.
5. Don't Be Pushy
We understand that you're at a networking event because you're eager to meet new people, make strong professional connections, and possibly even get a new job.
This is why it's important to remember that there's a fine line between being proactive and sounding like a salesman.
Personal and professional connections are going to take time to form. It's rare for people to hit it off in one meeting. If you come on too strong to people, you could be accidentally setting yourself up for disappointment in the future.
When you're out meeting new people, pay very close attention to body language and tone. Some people may be too polite to outright tell you that they aren't interested in talking, but they could be saying it with their body.
Regardless of your networking motives, know when to take a hint and try talking to someone new.
If you tell someone that you'd love to meet them for coffee and they bring up how busy they are in the future, don't push them to set a date. Offer to reach out to them in the future and let them take the initiative to set time with you.
If you approach a group of people that seem engaged in talking but don't seem interested in talking to you, know that it's okay to move on.
6. Be Interested in Other People
You're at your networking event for a specific purpose, but you shouldn't lose sight of the other people you're interacting with.
One of the worst things you can do at a networking event is to spend most of your time there talking about yourself.
You do want to make a good impression and may have some personal goals for the night, but if you spend most of your time out talking about yourself, people may think that you're conceited and may not want to talk to you.
Remember, everyone has a reason for being at a networking event. If you spend most of your time talking about yourself, you could miss out on hearing that could benefit you in the future.
Be sure to ask people around you about their jobs and what they're interested in. Engage yourself in the conversation and listen carefully to what your new potential connections are saying. If you listen hard enough, you could learn something great.
7. Bring a Friend
Do you hate the idea of going to a networking event by yourself? If you get anxious in situations where you don't know anybody, don't be afraid to ask a friend or a colleague to attend with you.
Bringing a friend can put you at ease, especially if they're naturally extroverted and like talking to other people.
If you plan on bringing a friend, tell them a little about why you're attending the event. Let them know ahead of time if there's anybody you want to connect with so they can be on the lookout for them.
Having a work friend or colleague attend an event with you can be helpful, and that's especially true if they're well connected and know people in your industry.
There's nothing like walking into a room with someone everyone already knows or wants to get to know. They can make introductions for you and connect you with people they think you should be talking to.
8. Don't Sweat the Awkward Moments
You could introduce yourself to someone you met at an old networking event. It's possible that you may say something negative about a company then learn that someone in your group works there.
Drinks can get spilled, information can be forgotten, and you may put a foot or two in your mouth, but that doesn't mean that the whole night needs to be a bust.
Some people can fixate on small things and let them ruin an entire night. If you're already feeling anxious about networking, it's easy to blow relatively small things out of proportion.
If you make a mistake, simply apologize and don't dwell on it. There are plenty of other people to talk to and conversations to have, don't let one small mistake ruin a potentially great night.
9. Remember to Connect on Other Levels
Sometimes the best connections you make at business events can be made from having common interests or goals. You're at a networking event for professional purposes, but that doesn't mean that you only should talk about business.
You may find that the person you're trying to talk to is into the same sports team as you. Their kids may be in the same school district as your kids. You could even find that you both love the same restaurant.
It's possible that some key connections may be a little put-off by constant business talk. They may be eager to talk about anything other than work. This is why it's never a bad idea to talk about something aside from work.
10. Always Remember to Follow Up
It doesn't matter if you made plans to meet up in the future or if you only exchanged business cards after a nice conversation. It's always important to follow up after networking.
Sending a quick e-mail after a networking event is one of the best things you can do to make connections. You'll still be fresh on someone's mind, and you're opening yourself up to more possibilities in the future.
Take some quick notes right after the event on people that you know you want to connect with. Afterward, set aside time the day after an event to handle all of your follow-ups.
Experience the Ultimate Networking Event
Networking events give you a unique opportunity to socialize and build your professional network. If you follow the tips in this post, you may find your previous dislike for networking events gradually disappear.
Now that you know the right way to network, it's time to put your skills to the test at one of the best events for professionals.
If you're interested in event planning and want to connect with your peers, take time to learn more about our conference.