Networking events often feel like survival of the fittest, because that’s what they are — you either take charge of the room or the room will take charge of you.
The good news is there are strategies you can implement to make the most of your next networking event. Turns out, the better you’re able to communicate, the more successful you’ll be as a networker.
Here are the 3 things we always do at networking events:
#1 — Ask Questions
“What do you do?” is the most obvious opening line. You’re not wrong to start here, especially at a networking event. But if you want to take it to the next level, listen to their answer and ask follow up questions. For example, “do you travel often for work?” or “how long have you been working at x company.” If you’re familiar with their line of work or know people who work with them, you can always say something like, “your org has been really solid in x area. I’ve always appreciated the work you do.”
#2 — Talk about interesting things
Though it doesn’t often feel like it, you’re more than your job (and so is everyone else). The more you can discover about a person outside of their 9-5, the more likely it is that you’ll build a connection. Can you talk sports or hometowns? If so, you’ll demonstrate that you have an interest in who they are beyond what they can do for you at work, and this motivation is greatly appreciated.
#3 — Make your exit
The goal of a networking event is to talk to multiple people, which means you need an exit strategy for every conversation. If you started talking to someone without a drink in your hand, you can always excuse yourself, mention your need for a beverage, and end with how nice it was to meet him/her. (This strategy also works if you empty your glass mid-conversation. Just say you need a refill and excuse yourself.) Another “out” you can claim is your interest in talking to x person. Again, this is a networking event, everyone knows the goal is to talk to as many people as possible.
One final point… if you notice someone is alone, be kind and initiate a conversation. No one will think this is weird as the point of a networking event is to get to know people, so really you’re just playing by the rules.