How to Ace Your Next Networking Event
I always have the best of intentions when I RSVP to networking events and conferences. I write down the date in my planner and sometimes I even mark it with an exclamation point for added emphasis. The excitement leading up to the event is genuine, but I have to bribe myself to walk into the room every single time. What if I end up standing by myself, or worse, what if I have to talk to someone?
If this sounds like you and the thought of memorizing an elevator pitch makes you squirm, consider using one of these tactics at your next networking event.
1. Show up with contact cards
I once made the mistake of assuming my connections would look me up on Instagram after the event. They didn’t. Unless you trade Instagram handles during the conversation, there is a very high chance they will forget your name by the end of the lightning round, or they will scroll through the endless list of Lauren W.’s and give up trying to figure out which profile looks most like you.
The contact card can be as simple as your name and social media handle, but the simple gesture will make a large impact.
2. Hype yourself up
I fall victim to the scarcity mentality when walking into a conference. I convince myself that everyone else in attendance is so much more successful in their careers, so who am I to even think I could try and break into the industry? I have found that the best way to quiet these thoughts is to remember that there is more than enough room at the table.
Before you head inside, take a deep breath and maybe play your favorite song for moments when you need a little encouragement (mine is currently “Juice” by Lizzo).
3. Set a goal
Is there someone you want to connect with or something you want to learn? Setting an intention beforehand will help guide you through the event. A few of my goals have been: meeting a boutique shop owner to discuss wholesale buyer relationships, learning about someone’s experience with Pinterest advertising, and talking with other freelancers about deciding what to charge for projects (because the quote “know your worth, then add tax” is cute, but not very helpful).
4. Stay off your phone
I’m sure you saw this one coming, but it’s important to keep screen time to a minimum. This isn’t to say no phones allowed (I love taking photos at events for newsletter and social media content), but be mindful when the photo-taking becomes mindless scrolling. You never know who you are sitting next to, so put the phone down and look up!
5. Have questions prepared
It can be awkward walking into a room on your own when it seems like everyone else came together (and just so you know, they did not all come together). Remember that everyone else also came to the event to meet other people, so pick a group and introduce yourself, everyone will be glad you did. When there is a lull in the conversation, use your goals to get back on track. Ask the others about recommendations for podcasts or what apps they use to plan their social posts. Asking open-ended questions will keep the conversation moving. And remember, humans like humans so be yourself!
6. Make the ask
Don’t let the conversation end without asking about further opportunities. The ask can look different depending on the situation, a few examples are:
Do you mind looking over my portfolio? I would appreciate the feedback.
I am interested in becoming a contributing writer, what is your submission process?
I think your customers would really enjoy my product, what is the best time to reach out this week?
And of course, don’t forget to follow up in the days following the event. Even though I have to drag myself to every conference, I have never once regretted showing up. I’ve become friends with several of the people I have met and have been connected to helpful resources for launching my side hustle. So to loosely paraphrase one of my favorite movie lines (A Cinderella Story, you know the one): “Don’t let the fear of the awkward silence keep you from going to the conference.”
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