In all industries we are encouraged to attend networking events to connect with people in similar businesses, share experiences and make useful new contacts that can help either in our current role or in our future career. Some people look forward to these events and some absolutely dread them. Some use them just to catch up with old friends and some come away with pockets full of useful business cards.
Whichever of these scenarios matches your experience of networking, there are things you could (and should) be doing to make sure that the time you spend at these events is a good use of your time.
At our Autumn ‘Women in Food & Farming’ networking evening, Katie Hart of Rhetonic delivered a workshop which outlined some key elements for success:
1 – Be prepared
Most event organiser will send out a delegate list in advance of the event so you can see who’s attending and work out who you might like to speak to. If they don’t send anything, it’s worth asking. Even in the days of GDPR people still find delegate lists incredibly useful, so most people attending a networking event will agree to their details being shared.
If you end up with a long list of people you would like to meet, plan your time, think about priorities and set yourself some objectives for what you want to get out of the event. This will help keep you focused.
2 – Breaking the ice
It can be very daunting when you arrive in a room full of people who are all busy in conversation. Where do you start? A great tip is to look for groups of odd numbers. It is much easier to join a conversation when there’s an odd person who may be able to break away from another conversation.
3 – The all-important elevator pitch
Even if you’ve been in your role for a long time, it’s likely that you haven’t really thought about how to introduce yourself in a succinct and informative way. Think about the following questions and try to answer them in order to build a great elevator pitch:
• Who benefits from what you do?
• How does it benefit them?
• What do you do?
4 – Ending conversations
At any networking event there will be a mixture of people who are useful to know and some who have no relevance. Nice as these people may be, it’s important that you are comfortable ending conversations to ensure that you have time to achieve those all-important objectives you set yourself. An effective way of doing this is simply to introduce them to somebody else and subtly exit the conversation.
5 – Make time to follow up
Having made some really useful connections, follow up on anything you agreed to do in a conversation or at least get in touch to say how good it was to meet them, and try to do this within 24 hours. You can do this by email or social media. A useful tip is that LinkedIn has a ‘nearby’ tool which can be used while at the event to quickly build up your LinkedIn connection.