I spoke with a client last week who said that she doesn’t like business events billed as “networking opportunities.” My first thought? Me neither.
The words “networking event” send chills down the backs of many people. In spite of that, most of my clients want to get better at relationship-building. Here are 6 ways you can set aside fear and get value from a networking event:
1) Set a goal. Life is too short to show up and get nothing. I think a ton these days about making commitments (especially evening and weekends) when I could be with Bonni and Luke. If you’re going to a networking event, set a goal.
Often, I aim to start a relationship with 3 people…or to make one new friend. Dialoguing with 3 people is doable for almost all of us. And, anytime I make a friend is time well spent.
2) Be cool with being afraid. I don’t know about you, but I hate being afraid of stuff. If I make my mind up in advance to be cool with it, it gets better. Decide in advance to be cool with being afraid. Bring the “Joe Cool” to your Snoopy.
3) Show up. Physically show up of course, but mentally show up too. It’s easy to stand in the corner or hang out at the appetizer station. Decide when you walk in that nothing bad will happen if you show up fully. When has anyone had a horrible trauma at a networking event?
If you really show up and get the most out of an hour-long networking meeting, you’ll be there 60 minutes. If you decide in advance you’ll be miserable for an hour, you’ll be there 60 minutes. Either way, it’s the same time commitment.
4) Find your people. Not the people you already know…but the other people there who may not like networking either. They are standing at the sides of the room or in the corners. Some of the best connections I’ve made at networking events were with other people who weren’t thrilled about being there. It’s a great conversation starter.
5) Be interested, not interesting. Most of us love to talk about ourselves and our interests. When you network, set aside your ego and ask lots of questions. Being curious about people will do more for your career than just about any other skill. Think “Curious George” and learn as much as you can.
Don’t try talk to everyone. The best networkers listen and focus on building quality connections with a few people (see point #1).
6) Wait to be asked. Don’t focus on handing out cards. Sadly, people that do this are perceived to be “good at networking” and others emulate this. The purpose of networking is to build relationships. Wait until someone asks you for a connection point. If you’ve done a good job listening and being curious, this will happen naturally.
My clients and I have used these methods above. What has worked for you that’s not on this list? Tell us your suggestions below.