April 23, 2015
Networking can be a little foreboding for some. A large venue, everyone has a name badge and oh my goodness, maybe fifty business cards was a few too many to arrive with considering you’ve been passing the time by eating the free nibbles and chatting to Mel from Accounts for the past fifteen minutes.
But they needn’t be that way! Networking should be fun (genuinely) and to help make it easier, here’s a quick guide.
Networking is Chatting
Get the word ‘networking’ out of your head because it doesn’t help anyone. When you get down to it, networking is just chatting with others and you do that all day anyway. Do you get along? Feel a connection of some description? Great, hopefully you’ve made a friend and also a business contact. Share your business card and move on. Easy.
People Are Expecting To Be Approached
This isn’t a Year 6 disco where the room divides into boys on one side and girls on the other, this is an occasion where everyone in attendance is secretly hoping to rid themselves of their business cards and hopefully walk away having agreed to ‘catch up’ with new acquaintances the next day. Many are shy and nervous about networking but they needn’t be. The people you talk to are expecting a few people to talk to them! If they’re shy, don’t worry about making the first move. We suggest “Hi” as a good opener or “Hey there” if you’re feeling a tad more ambitious. Don’t worry, you’ve got this.
Informality Makes Everything Easier
Walk into a beige room where the tables have been pushed to the side, grab your misspelled name tag and smile awkwardly at the waiter holding a bottle of Prosecco. Oh boy. No, no, no. This is a recipe for disaster. In order to make contacts, relax a little and enjoy the entertainment in a far more interesting venue. Dance to the left, slide to the right and proffer your business card as you nod in mutual appreciation to the glorious covers provided by Hand Fulla Soul. People love a good party so although you’re all attending for work, at least make it feel as little like work as possible. But oi! Don’t relax too much. You’re still ambassadors for your workplace as every school headmaster used to say.
Go with a Colleague
Although you don’t want to stay with Mel for the entire night (sorry to anyone called Mel who works in Accounts for being the example in this particular blog), it’s perfectly fine to spend some time with her, waiting for your optimum moment to get involved. Familiar people are great for allowing you to build up your courage – not that you need any (see points one and two) – but be sure to step away from your comfort zone after the first drink or two. This can be easily achieved by...
Grabbing a Bite to Eat
More often than not, the networking event will have a fair few plates of free food for you to sample and with many attendees heading straight from work, there is almost always a queue. Where better to strike up a conversation than when waiting your turn? You could nod your head to the brilliant live act on stage and avert your eyes from the people either side of you doing exactly the same thing but no, this is a great opportunity for a chat with a time limit. You may get a contact out of it and you may not but it doesn’t matter too much as that buffet table is edging ever closer...
Connect Before the Event
This is perhaps the easiest way to network in the modern world. Get on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – the latter is definitely the most effective – and get chatting with other fellow partygoers. Sorry, event networkers. A few choice words before the event can go a long way to making a real life connection just a few hours later!
So there you go. It’s not as hard as it seems. Look about the room, admire the magic acts and music entertainment and most importantly of all, get talking!
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By Henry Fosdike