Those three daunting words you hear everywhere in business: “network, network, network”. So, you bite the bullet and sign up for a meet-and-mingle networking event. Then what?
Networking is much more than showing up and passing out business cards. Whether you are employed or running your own business, using networking events to build relationships and become part of a community is an invaluable opportunity to invest in yourself and advance your career. To see the best results, all it takes is a little preparation and practice. Here’s what you need to know before you take the plunge...
Have a Goal
Before you get to the event, think about why you are going and what you would like to get out of it. The clearer you are of this, the better. Knowing what you’re hoping to accomplish will help you stay focused; instead of aimlessly wandering around, feeling like a spare part!
Dress to Impress
When planning your outfit, pick something professional - you won’t leave a good impression if you look untidy, disorganised, or overly casual. Wear something that makes you feel good, comfortable and most importantly, confident!
Bring Business Cards
This one seems basic, but it's something we see so many people forget! Bring more business cards than you think you’ll need, and keep a stack of them in a card case. This way you can keep them neat and grab them quick, rather than to be there rummaging through your bag awkwardly!
Make an Effective Introduction
When approaching someone new, introduce yourself by making eye contact, smiling, stating your first and last name, and giving a firm but brief handshake. Then, listen for the other person’s name and address them with it while you’re speaking. This will help you appear sincere and ingrain their name in to your memory too!
Listen More Than You Speak
Here’s a networking secret: let the other person speak first! A person who talks about themselves first is only being half listened to. The person being spoken to first is subconsciously preparing their answers and therefore aren't listening to you fully. Show genuine interest in people and what they do and prepare a handful of good ice-breaker questions. Asking the other person about their background and work will show you’re interested in more than what's in this for you. The best questions are ones that can’t be answered with 'yes' or 'no'!
Get to the Point
When it’s your turn to speak, resist the temptation to waffle on and cut to the chase. You can always go into more detail a little later. Remember to speak using simple language. The key to effectively networking is to build rapport and so if you're baffling somebody with lots of industry jargon and they don't have a clue what you're talking about, well, you won't find a connection!
Feel comfortable in taking notes! It's almost impossible to remember every last detail of every conversation, so after mingling with a few people, find a corner of the room to subtly make notes on the back of each person’s business card about who they are, what you talked about, and any follow-up instructions you want to give yourself. Remember, the purpose of a networking event is to connect with people in the future, and this will make following up with them much, much easier.
After a networking event, it's really important that you follow-up with emails to anyone you met that you’d like to continue networking with. It's best to do this within 48 hours. Make sure to personalise each email, letting each person know you enjoyed meeting them and reference something that you talked about. This is a perfect opportunity to suggest meeting on a one-to-one basis.
Networking is one of the most powerful tools you have in your career and by being prepared for the opportunities will heighten the chances of seeing a return on the time you've invested. Beyond that, just try to relax and have some fun! Ready to attend your first design related networking? Our next Concept north Event - held in The Florist, Liverpool at the end of the month - is the perfect place to start!
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