At every networking event, it makes sense to have a strategy.
Sure, you can just wing it. And that’s not a bad way to get started. But after your first few you’ll want some ROI. A return to make your time and investment worth the money.
And it’d probably make conversations with your boss a little easier too, right?
With that in mind, here’s how to make sure you’re getting something from every event you attend.
Heading off to sit in a big room, wide eyed and bushy tailed it’s easy to become overawed by the swarms of people, bustling round a room. A lot of things will run through your mind.
“They all look so important.”
“Am I the youngest here?”
“I bet everyone knows a lot more about this than I do.”
You’ve got some serious patter locked away in that brainbox of yours. If you can strike up a conversation on the phone, I guarantee you can do it face to face. Know how I know?
Because it’s easier.
And it becomes more so, if you have a target before you go. That may well be ‘getting a job on’ with a client. But don’t reach too high in your early events. It’s easier to pinpoint 4 people you’d like to meet and start with easy to hit targets.
Starting a conversation with someone is something you do every day. So make that your first milestone. Hit it (or get close) and you’ll be inclined to continue networking and set loftier targets each time.
This is something your boss will tell you matters. And they’re right. But don’t be fooled into thinking this means dress smart. Because it doesn’t.
If you turn up to a Developer Meetup in a suit with polished shoes, you’re going to look like a recruiter.
And that’s something you don’t want to do.
You want to fit in with your network. So dress appropriately. Which means in the case of above, t-shirt and jeans. And possibly a pony tail for males.
If you know someone who’s going along, ask them what they’re wearing. Or look at images from previous events and gauge the scene for yourself.
Bit old hat isn’t taking business cards?
Probably, but that over flowing box sitting in your top drawer might as well get some use.
So take them, and if you’re really cool practice your handshake with one prepped in the palm of your hand. OK maybe don’t do that.
But if you do want to look cool, why not check out some apps that make business cards obsolete. You can find those here.
For example, Aqua is a free app that lets you exchange details at the touch of a screen. And Intro is another networking app which beefs up your phone contacts to allow more information than ever before.
You don’t need to self deprecating in your opener to a fellow networker.
It should feel less like an intro at AA and more like a friend introducing another.
In a way, standing up in the middle exclaiming “Hi, my name’s Tom, and I’m a recruiter” will set the pace of the discussion. But you might want to leave your job title to the end.
The best way to state your purpose at an event is to proudly say you’re trying to learn as much about your market as possible. Because, no matter how grimly people view recruiters, no one will ever view that as a bad thing.
“Oh, you must be better than the ones I talk to?” They’ll respond, counting themselves lucky they came.
A lot of people will say take notes when you’re at an event. But I actually think that should take a back seat. You’re there to mingle. Sure, note down names (or use tech to do that for you)… but if you’ve got your head buried in your phone, you’ll be less approachable.
Be ready to learn. And do make notes wherever possible.
But more importantly, listen and learn.
You’ll want to come across as self-assured when meeting people. But not the person who’s tethered to the bar winning drinking contests.
Yes, there’s likely to be free beer.
But the more you nail the approach at networking events, the less you’ll worry about the cost of beer.
If you’ve done your homework, know who’s in the room and are confident over your value proposition, you’ll have confidence in spades.
Your value proposition could well be clearer just from your attendance. But in case you’re worried, think about the reasons someone might want to stay connected. And the richness of your conversation will make the first strides without you ever having to tell someone.
There’s always lots of people at events. And you don’t want to rue going because you’re man marked by the evening’s busy-body.
So make sure you’ve got a practiced exit strategy up your sleeve.
You need to be polite but measured. Make your apology and simply state you’re going to catch up with a friend you’ve seen over the other side of the room.
This leaves you able to work the room, without seeming rude.
The easy part.
Running through the list of people you’ve met, pick up the phone and give them a call. But whatever you do, make this call worth their time.
Give them something you think they’d appreciate.
In 90% of cases this is unlikely to be a candidate or a job.
And if you make the relationship transactional before you’ve had a chance to build rapport, that’s how it’ll stay.
Give them some news. Or industry info you think they’d appreciate. Make the relationship beneficial for them before it’s beneficial to you. Then, next time you need a favour… like a job to work… guess who’ll be first in line?
And that’s how you (figuratively) shine at a networking event. Build your network full of people you know face to face, and watch your business transform into long-lasting partnerships before your very eyes.
Director of Interim Recruitment at Ernest Hunter Green
Graduate Consultant in our Manchester office at Better Placed
Senior Consultant- Accounting & Finance at Charterhouse Hong Kong
Business Development Manager - EMEA at Emerald Technology
Recruitment Consultant - BOSS Medical at BOSS Professional Services