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You know that to find a job, advance your career or build your business you need to network. Common advice is to make networking a part of your life. And that’s something to work toward. However, the truth is that part of making connections is going to events for the purpose of networking.
However, for some of us meeting people at events can be daunting. Generally, you’re attending some type of dinner meeting which may not be very appealing after a long day at the office. But, if you’ve already paid you grimace a bit then get in your car and go.
When you arrive you see groups of smiling people chatting like they’ve known each other forever. Everyone there is having a great time. That is, everyone but you. Why did you ever sign up for this dinner in the first place?
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little planning you can sail through networking events like a pro. Sometimes you’ll even come away with a valuable connection.
Here are six ways to help you make your next networking event a success.
Business Card Do
You have to have business cards. If you’re out of work or your company doesn’t give you business cards print your own. All you need is something simple – your name, contact information and if possible a blurb about you. Maybe you’re a sales professional or social media expert. Just make sure your card represents what you want to represent. A business card for your side jewelry business won’t help get you a job as an accountant. What’s important is to have something to exchange when you’re making a connection.
Business Card Don’t
OK, you’ve had your business cards printed. Don’t hand them out to everyone you meet. Wait until there is an opportunity to exchange cards or someone asks for one of yours. One of the worst things you can do is walk around the room handing cards out to people who have no idea who you are. Another bad idea is to hand them out to everyone sitting at your table. The next stop for those cards will be the circular filing cabinet.
Come to the Rescue
It can be scary to walk into an event, particularly when you’re alone. Everyone is laughing and having a good time. It’s easy to wish you were home on the sofa. When that happens look around the room. You’ll always find one or two people standing alone. Looking around and hoping that someone will come over and rescue them. You be that person. Walk over, hold out your hand and introduce yourself. You’ve just made their night.
Look for Groups
Knowing which group you can join can be tricky. Generally, it’s easier to enter the conversation when it’s a group of three or more people. Two people deep in conversation may be so engrossed that they wouldn’t appreciate being interrupted. They may be friends discussing something personal. Larger groups are easier to approach. There’s nothing wrong with asking if you can join them.
Say Goodbye Graciously
Ever feel like you’re “stuck” with someone. Maybe you made a connection. Maybe not. Either way you don’t want to spend the entire cocktail portion of the event talking to one person. After 10 minutes or so it’s probably time to move on. But often the other person keeps talking and you don’t know how to escape. Simply say goodbye graciously. Thank them, tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them, exchange cards (if you want to) and say that you want to give them the opportunity to meet other people. Then say goodbye and move on. It can be that easy.
Bonus Tip: Smile
There’s nothing that will make you seem more inviting than your smile. A smile projects friendliness. It projects confidence. Walking up to someone and introducing yourself with a smile can be the quickest way to open the door to a new relationship.
When you go to events don’t be so focused on making connections that you forget to enjoy yourself. Sometimes you’ll meet one or two people you want to begin a relationship with. Sometimes you won’t. The key to successful networking is to expect nothing and be open to anything.