When I think of networking, I think professional conferences. They offer a great opportunity for people in the same industry to get together to discuss new trends and fads and to, well, network.
I have never really had a problem talking to people; it’s figuring out who to talk to and what to talk about that is the problem. Networking is mandatory at an event like a conference, especially if you don’t know anyone and everyone else looks like they know everyone but you. That’s where your networking plan comes into play.
Always go to a networking event with a plan. Be ready for the best, and be prepared for the worst. The first thing I usually do is to look around the room and see if I can spot anyone I know. If not, then it’s time to be social, time to put on my networking face. The only other alternative is to sit in the corner on my iPad and look busy so nobody notices me … and that sounds too much like junior high. No thank you.
Networking events usually begin with some sort of meet-and-greet activity to kick things off. The first part of your plan is to look confident, even if you don’t feel like it; approachable, even if you don’t really want to be approached; and positive, even when you feel negative.
I mean really, who wants to talk to someone who is unapproachable, negative and not the least bit confident? Nobody! You want to start the event on a good note: Smile, make eye contact and shake hands with confidence.
Once you make contact and start the actual networking process, the hardest part comes into play, sharing your personal “elevator pitch.” It’s time to talk about you.