by Aurélie Veltema
Picture this: as you are about to enter a room full of people, you feel a bit overwhelmed. There is a flock of butterflies making its way through your stomach. You are well prepared, but still nervous as you are about to step into a room with a group of strangers who all seem to know each other already. You signed up for a networking event to meet new people.
Your main goal is to broaden your network, perhaps to find a connection to a new job, or a new project. However, you would be so happy to start a nice conversation with someone at this event. You are unsure about who you will find, as you don’t know anyone else at the event. Now is the time to take that step through the door, you feel all eyes on you. Your first instinct is to turn on your heel and run.
Of course, you don’t run. You have signed up to meet new people, to have a chat, to enjoy this new experience, so go for it. Once you are inside you will notice that the eyes quickly turn away again. People are chatting in small groups around various tables and as you move through the room, you see another person entering. This lady also gets to experience all eyes on her for a brief moment. And just like when you entered, everyone returns just as easily to their conversation. People here are curious about you, they have also come to meet new people.
Soon you find yourself at one of the tables with someone who was standing by herself . Now you are one of the people in the room talking and looking up from your conversation to see who else is entering the room. You no longer feel uncomfortable, you belong here, and you get to meet new people, engage in conversation and enjoy yourself.
The nervous flutters and the discomfort when you first step into a network event or even at a friends’ birthday party might never really go away. However, when you prepare a short pitch about who you are you have something to rely on.
When you meet someone for the first time, they will ask you about what you do in life or what your job is. At a networking event, you might have a name badge that has your organization on it. However, that’s rarely enough information to start a conversation on. If you have a short pitch about who you are and what your aim is to find at the event, you can use that to open a conversation.
Your aim is to meet new people and to be able to follow up with them after the event. To get their business card or better yet, a follow up phone call you need to make a connection. Find out what they are looking for at this event. The easiest way to find out is by listening to what they have to say.
You may find a connection for a new project to work on together, or they might have a link for you to someone else who could help you out. Or it may be the other way around and you can help this new connection with a link to your own network. Listen to their story and try to keep an open mind. Even if this person is not who you were looking for at this event, they might still be a valuable contact to have. You never know what might come up in a few months from now.
Do you attend networking events alone or do you bring a friend or a colleague? That’s no problem as long as you also open yourself up to meeting new people at the event. Try to stand by yourself for a bit. This way, others can come and talk to you. You can browse around the room to see who is there. Maybe you find an opening to join a conversation. Say hello and once it fits the conversation you can use your pitch to tell that person a little about yourself. Tell me, are you open for a conversation?
You will not find that amazing connection or that great follow-up at every networking event you attend. Here are a few tips to prepare yourself to get the most out of the networking event.
1. Prepare a pitch to explain who you are and what your aim is for attending the event.
2. Find out: what is the goal of this networking event for the organizers?
3. Check out the guest list. Maybe do a quick google/LinkedIn search.
4. Have some business cards to pass on to your new connection.
5. Be open to meet new people, keep an open mind and try to enjoy yourself. Your smile is the best invitation.
Networking is as much giving as it is receiving, and it takes time and practice to feel more comfortable at it. You don’t have to be a social genius to enjoy yourself at a networking event and having a goal is good, but you do not need to come home with ten leads after every event. Try to focus on having a few nice conversations and broadening your network. You never know where that might lead for future opportunities.
My name is Aurélie Veltema, I work as a freelance event manager at my own company AVUE. My aim is to advise and coach entrepreneurial women who want to grow their business through a successful workshop. I have a background in communications, project and event management and I enjoy learning more about event management every day. My website (https://avue.nu) is currently only available in Dutch, but if you have a question or you want to discuss more about networking at events, you can always send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be happy to meet you!