Some people look forward to their next networking event about as much as they looked forward to their first middle school dance. Meeting new people, trying to make a good impression, and hoping to achieve growth in your chosen profession –all in a one- to three-hour span –can make the most confident and gregarious human being feel socially awkward.
Whether your goal is to increase awareness of your product, find new sources of referrals, gain new business, raise funds for a non-profit, or find future employment or employees, here are some tips to help you make all the right moves at your next networking event:
Choose your dance partner: It’s easier to approach one or two people who do not appear to be engaged in heavy conversation. If you are attending an event with your co-workers, break it up. Don’t form a circle and move in on the same prospect or spend your time in a comfortable huddle gossiping or talking shop.
Sometimes you lead…But not always; remember that your fellow attendees want to get to know you and let you know more about them. Ask open-ended questions that will allow your networking partners to talk about what they can offer as well as what some of their needs are.
Know when to leave the dance floor… When you feel that you’re ready to move on to someone else, thank the individual(s) you are currently connecting with, let them know that you are happy to have met them (even if you’re not), and move along. You do not need to make an excuse, such as ‘I think I see someone know’ or ‘I need to go refresh my drink.’
Don’t hang out by the punch bowl – You already know that your impression will not be good if you have too much liquid spirit…enough said. Also avoid juggling a plate and a drink. You may want to shake hands or reach for a business card. Dropping either your food or your beverage could be awkward.
Save the last dance –You shouldn’t look to close the deal at the first introduction. If you meet someone you’d like to see again, let them know that you will call them –and do. Write down some key things that made that person an interesting prospect so you’ll remember them when you return to your workplace.
Take a bow – Be proud of yourself for surviving the event. Then review your performance so you can do even better next time.