Tips for networking at events.
The other night I had the wonderful opportunity to attend an event for clothing line Frances Austen and stationery studio Alissa Bell at The Riddler in Hayes Valley. It was a great gathering of professional women supporting one another. I will share more about Frances Austen tomorrow, but I had a blast meeting new women and it came up in one of the conversations how awkward it can be to try and network at events, even if you really want to.
Since I love going out to events and meeting new people, I thought I would share my tips for those who want to improve their networking skills aka feel less awkward. I should add that I definitely get this skill from my mother. She is a professional at meeting new people and connecting them to others.
First, I want to start with my philosophy on networking- because there are definitely different unspoken schools of thought on this. Like my mother, I truly go into events with the mindset of who can I meet here that I can connect to someone else. I never go in with the attitude, "I am going to meet someone so that I can find a job or xyz that benefits me". I always go in with the attitude, who can I meet that can help other people I know. I guarantee that if you approach meeting new people with this attitude it will be much easier. And an unexpected by-product is that you get to meet great people! Good karma will eventually come your way and you might end up getting a job out of it.
Acknowledge that almost everyone feels uncomfortable. So at most events, I have learned that most people feel uncomfortable. They are either there alone or don't know a lot of people and don't know how to initiate conversation.
Know your value. It's important to remember that you bring something to the table at these events. It's important to know that people are interested in meeting you a lot more than you think.
Ask a question. I usually walk right up to someone and ask a question. It can be anything from "where is the bar?", "how is the food?", "do you know anyone here?", "how did you hear about this event?", "what do you think of this venue?". Really, you can ask almost anything. Based on their response you can see if they want to talk or not. Then you launch into a conversation.
Connect people at the event. I love having multiple conversations at events with different people and then at the event I make an effort to introduce the people I am talking to. It's also easier at networking events to have three people in a conversation; it keeps the flow going.
Exchange info. Instagram, Linkedin, email- exchange whatever you want. I genuinely love meeting people so I always want to follow up with them. This can be the most awkward part for people, but just say something like, "I enjoyed chatting. I'd love to stay in touch". Easy.
Follow up. When I leave the event and I think about the people I met I usually draft an email in my head as to what I want to say and brainstorm who I want to introduce them to. I send a follow-up email the next day and ask if I can introduce them to someone I think they'd like to know. Then I reach out to my contact to see if they want to be connected and send an email intro.
Water off a duck's back. It happens every so often when someone is rude or tries to purposely avoid connecting at events. And honestly, you just have to let it go. I think this "rejection" is what most people envision happening and try to avoid at all costs in social situations. It happens to me all the time- people just don't want to connect (or be friendly) for whatever reason and you just have to ignore it.
Acknowledge people you have met before. This is my biggest tip and I think shows a lot of maturity. If you are at an event and see people you have met at previous events, simply say hello or at least a wave. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to events and met people and then see them again and they don't say hello. I'm not sure why. But just say hello to them.