Is networking overrated? Well, yes and no. Let me explain. Networking events are made to be a place where you can connect with other professionals (or creatives depending on your industry) whether they on on your level or further along in their professional journey. You are there to meet new people and take those connections outside of that event to cultivate them, creating long lasting relationships.
Does that always happen? Nope. Most of the time you end up eating all the free food and drinking at the open bar making small talk and staring at your phone looking like your busy so no one will bother you. You may even collect a couple of business cards but other than that it is a complete waste of your time and energy.
The purpose of attending a networking event is to meet people who can add value to you in some way. That does not have to be immediate but you have to see some potential in order to take the conversation past introductions. So the next time you go to a networking event, follow these steps and take your networking game from basic to lit.
1. Do your research
So you found an event that looks dope and you’ve decided to attend. Just show up and hope for the best right? Nah, not at all. Do some Instagram stalking and Google searching and find out more about the attendees, panelists and speakers. You want to find out everything from the company they work for, their title how long they’ve been with the company (if its recent their old position may be up for grabs), anything that stands out to you as valuable information.
2. Get there early
You want to be sure to get there early not only because you’ll get first pick of the food and drinks (the foodie in me came out) but you also want to have time to survey the room and get to the people you want to speak to before everyone else gets there.
3. Take Notes
Ok so you’ve started to work the room. You’ve identified the people on your list you wanted to speak to as well as some new faces. This is the part where you practice your active listening skills. Pull up the notes app in your phone and type a couple of notes about them with their name so that when you get their business card your not staring at it when you get home at the end of the night like, “who was that again?”. This also comes in handy when you send that follow up email (we will get into that later) You will have those notes to start relevant conversations and you look really attentive when you ask them a super targeted question about something they mentioned to you when you met.
4. Follow Them on Social Media
You want to be sure to connect with on social media. My go to platforms are Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Instagram and Twitter are easy to add right then and there. LinkedIn I usually add when I get home. Send them a personal invite on LinkedIn (So great meeting you at XYZ event, lets keep in touch!). Be sure to like some of their pics and comment to let them know you are taking interest in their page. There is almost a guarantee that you will get some likes and comments back.
5. Follow up with them!
Now yall know how I feel about follow up (refer to my previous blog post) Be sure to take the opportunity to send them a follow up email and take the conversation offline by suggesting an in person meeting. Now when you go to that in person meeting you want to have very specific goals for the interaction. Do you want to learn more about what they do? More about their company? If they are looking to add to their team? Open to collaborating on a project? The whole point of networking is to add value to your network through cultivating relationships. You want to go into it with a plan but not sounding as if it’s all about you. Tell them about yourself and be authentic. People can feel if you’re being ingenuous. Overall you want to be able to go to fewer events because your network is so strong that the “networking events” are now simply a reunion of all of your people in one place.
Any more questions or tips on how you network?
Drop me a line!