I’ve been there. Walking into a networking event for the first time and feeling that onslaught of anxiety surge through your body as you walk up to a small group of people chatting whom you’ve never met before. Let’s face it, networking for the first time is tough. But networking is a natural part of business and is important for personal and professional growth, regardless of your job title.
At the Chamber we host over 80 events for our members and new networkers come out to each event. To help those new to networking or thinking about coming out to your first Chamber event we’ve put together 7 quick tips for first time networkers to make the process as easy and productive as possible.
1. Listen, attentively
When you’re starting to network you want to ensure you are developing strong, two-way relationships and that starts with listening to the person you are speaking with. There is an old adage that you have two ears and one mouth so you should be listening twice as much as talking. This can apply directly to networking.
2. Don’t try and meet the whole room
A majority of Chamber events have near or over 100 attendees and to build strong business relationships you must take the time to get to know people, not the whole room. You only have a certain amount of time to connect with each person in the room. Focus on connecting with a handful of professionals and understand what they do and how you might be able to help them in the future.
3. Know your 30 second pitch
Once you meet someone at a networking event they will invariably ask you what you do. Have a firm grasp on what your pitch is. It doesn’t have to be a perfectly relayed version of a speech you’ve memorized about your company or position. Just simply have a few sentences in mind, it’ll help to ease your nerves.
4. Don’t be afraid to jump into a group
When you first walk into a room for a networking event you will likely see small groups of 3-5 people scattered around the room of people talking. You may feel apprehension in jumping into one of these groups to introduce yourself. You shouldn’t be afraid. Walk up, smile and nod, wait person speaking to complete their thought or sentence, and then introduce yourself. Everyone at a networking event is looking to meet new people. You could be that new person!
5. Ask questions
Networking is about building relationships and you can’t do that effectively if you don’t get to know the person you’re talking to. Avid Chamber networker Lisa McDonald recommends asking “What do you like to do when you’re not working?” This is an excellent question to ask as it goes beyond the typical, “So, where do you work?” You are showing you care about the other person while also searching for commonalities in which to build trust and a professional relationship on. The more you know about the person, the more opportunities you have to help them. And, that starts with asking questions.
6. Bring business cards
It seems low tech and obvious, but you should always consider that you can meet countless people at events and having a card with basic contact information is handy to have when ending out a conversation so they can have a better shot at remembering your name.
7. Follow up, follow up, follow up
Networking doesn’t work if you don’t follow up with those you meet. This can be anything from a phone call, email, or LinkedIn connection request. Remind them about where you met them and what you chatted about and that you wanted to stay connect. It’s really as easy as that. If you are making networking a big part of your professional routine you will need to learn to do this or you won’t grow your relationships past that initial meeting.
There are a lot of ways to network out there besides the 80+ events the Chamber hosts every year. From community events to impromptu coffee meetings, there are countless ways to start meeting new people and grow your network. And, remember to have fun along the way.