Networking isn’t something that is optional, it is a critical part of job search success. In fact, many experts argue that when it comes to finding a new job the connections you make via networking are more important than your actual job skills. If we accept that as true, then 3 things become critically important at any networking event.
- Having a high level of emotional intelligence that allows you to connect well with others
- Having extremely good communication skills
- Making a great first impression that people will remember
Seven Tips for Killing Any Networking Event:
1. Mind Your Body Language
If you have read our post on How First Impressions Work the you will know all about the importance of non verbal cues. Just like any job interview, first impressions communicated through body language are a critical part of successful networking. When developing your networking skills pay close attention to the following body language cues:
- Smile – It makes people feel at ease and much more likely to open up and talk to you.
- Handshake – Always have a firm handshake for everyone you meet, it conveys confidence and honesty.
- Eye Contact – Maintain good eye contact, it shows you are engaged and interested.
- Lean In Slightly – It shows engagement and interest (it works well on a first date too)
2. Remember Names
When you introduce yourself to anyone at a networking event make sure you clearly tell them your full name especially if your name is long or a bit tricky. Repeat it if you need to as many people will not clarify the details if you mumble and that becomes a wasted contact. Once you have established who you are make sure you remember the names of people you have met. Remembering other peoples names is not just a great networking skill, it’s a good life skill. You can cement the name in your memory using some follow up networking skills:
- Hello John, it’s nice to meet you….
- Tell me John, how did you hear about this event…
- So what does your role at XYZ involve John…
3. Deliver Your Pitch
Imagine you have successfully introduced yourself to someone and then they ask you what it is you do. Your next sentence is critical, you need to nail this important networking skill. Don’t try and wing it, have a great elevator pitch ready and practice it at home so you can deliver it with confidence and ease. If you are not sure how to craft the pitch, see our post below. It includes a step by step guide as well as a prepared script you can adjust to your needs – too easy!
4. Ask Probing Questions
To make good connections you need to have a quality conversations and that means developing the networking skill of asking probing questions. Probing questions are ones that require more than a simple yes or no answer. Consider the following changes:
So Peter, what do you do?
Change to – So Peter, tell me a little about your role at XYZ?
Have you been here long?
Change to – How did you hear about this particular event?
Both these examples show how you can change a simple question into one that requires an explanation as part of the answer.
5. Listen More / Talk Less
It may seem counter-intuitive, but at networking events it is a really important networking skill to listen to what others are saying rather than trying to state your case all the time. Think about this – you meet two people at a networking event.
One talks about himself and his achievements a lot and monopolises the conversation. The other person asks about you, your interests and your goals.
If you have an opportunity to help one of these people, who would you help? Obviously the person who took the time to connect with you and understand you better. The same rules apply to everyone else, focus on understanding others by listening carefully to what they say and you will leave a great impression on them making it more likely they will try and help you.
6. Work The Room
There is always a danger at networking events that you meet someone you connect with and spend most of the evening talking to them because that is less scary than moving away and meeting someone new. Be brave, work the room, ultimately you will benefit. If you are not sure how to dislodge and move on consider the lines below:
It was lovely meeting you Mary, I just saw a colleague of mine arrive who I promised to introduce to someone….
Let me introduce you to XYZ, you both…..
7. Follow Up Promptly
The final networking skill you have to master is the prompt follow up. If you make a connection with someone and commit to sending them something, introducing them to someone etc…make sure you follow up promptly the next day.
Go into your next networking event with sharper networking skills and a clear plan to listen, learn and make real connections with people not just add a few more names to your LinkedIn profile.