For some people, it’s a nerve-wracking situation.
Others don’t like the small talk.
Even if they make you cringe, networking events are extremely valuable. They’re an opportunity to explore the career options in a profession by speaking to those already working in it – and start making professional connections.
In 2011, after I completed a post-graduate program in PR at Humber College, I attended a plethora of networking events.
A professor in one of my classes had suggested that my peers and I go to these events alone. This way, the professor insisted, we’d stay focused on meeting new people and not spend too much time socializing with those in our circle.
I took this advice, as did some of my classmates.
We discovered that being on our own in a place with industry leaders was a bit intimidating, but learned ways to work the room. In the end, I did make more contacts.
Here are a few tips that might also help you.
Do some extra preparation
Whether you’re a seasoned networker or a networking novice, it can be a little intimidating to walk into a room full of strangers.
If you’re not used to attending events solo, spend extra time preparing.
Try and set some tentative goals for the event. Are you looking to make a connection with a particular person or organization? Is there a industry career question you want to explore with an expert?
Giving yourself a clear objective can help you decide how to act with purpose.
It’s also a good idea to review your past work experience and identify some of your major accomplishments and interesting experiences – these can come in handy if a conversation ends up focused on you.
Stand by the bar or near the food
Don’t lurk in a corner! People will notice and you’ll attract attention to yourself in a negative way.
At networking events, most people will travel to the bar or food areas at least a few times. These locations are spots where you can easily start a conversation.
Recommend a drink or snack option, and then proceed to introduce yourself.
If you’d like to hear more from someone about their company or get career advice, ask if they’d like to join you at a table to continue the conversation.
If the person has coworkers or friends at the event, tell them you’d appreciate being introduced so you can learn more about different facets of the industry.
Talk to the event organizers
If you have absolutely no idea where to start at an event, just ask the team who put it together.
Try to find out the names of the organizers online before attending the event – that way you know who to look for. Usually, you’ll find the organizers near the entrance.
Introduce yourself and thank the organizers for putting the event together, then explain why you’re attending.
There’s a good chance the event organizers will have already connected with a number of people at the event. Ask if they’re able to introduce you to someone who might be in your field or working at a company you’d like to learn more about.
Be bold and approach a table
Remember, the purpose of a networking event is to meet new people and increase your connections. There is no reason to be afraid to approach others.
Try to find a table with a couple of empty chairs and politely ask if you can join the group.
Introduce yourself, and contribute to the conversation. Make sure to listen attentively and ask engaging questions – don’t make the conversation about you.
When you decide it’s time to leave, don’t get up and walk away. Take a little time to say goodbye to people you had promising conversations with, and make sure you’ve got contact information for people you’d like to connect with later.
Be sure to thank the organizers as you leave the event!