It’s the holiday season. That means year-end networking events.
They always seem like a good idea when the invitation arrives, don’t they?
Yet when the appointed hour comes, I often regret my affirmative RSVP.
Except I didn’t this month when I dragged myself away from a compelling work project at 6:30 one evening and made myself go to the event I said I would attend.
It was a professional networking event of my son’s high school, for alums and parents to get to know each other and share ideas.
To honor my commitment, I intended to stay for 30 minutes. But happily and unexpectedly, that extended into a fun-filled 90 minutes.
Why? As I reflected on it, there are a few ways to make the most of a networking event.
In particular, think about the social savvy aspect, or social media element, of the people you meet and the conversations you have.
- Have a goal or two. Why are you attending? What do you want to accomplish? For me, I wanted to meet local professionals related to my son’s school to feel more connected to the school and the local community. I wanted to meet interesting people and hear what they were doing.
In part, I was inspired by marketing strategist Dorie Clark‘s advice in Harvard Business Review about networking with people outside your industry. She makes a compelling case for deliberately exposing yourself to diverse points of view.
And just like social media is about sharing and giving, the same is true for a networking event. Approach it from the perspective of how you can help others.
How do you do that? Here are a few ideas.
- Scan the attendee list. Look up a few people in social media to see who you might want to meet. What have they posted about recently? How can that be a conversation starter?
- Scan the latest news. Know what’s happening in the world that day. See what’s trending on Twitter. You’ll be better able to engage in conversations and ask people for their thoughts.
- Wear something that makes a statement. Pick something that you feel great in. A bright color, an interesting tie or a fabulous pin can help you connect with people. And you’ll stand out in photos that are posted in social media.
- Stand in the doorway for a moment when you arrive. This helps anchor you and lets you scan the room to see who you might want to meet.
- Put your name tag on your right side. This was something I learned in grad school at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. When you shake hands, your name tag becomes more prominent and easier to read.
- Grab a beverage. Stick to one drink and sip it slowly. Hold it in your left hand, so your right hand is ready for shaking hands.
- Have a question or two ready. This will depend on the group. For mine, I asked about how people were connected to the school.
- Introduce people to each other. Make a point of connecting people you know to each other. Say something great about each person that provides a conversation starter.
- Look for small groups. It’s easier to start conversations with one or two people. You can start with a comment on the food or the venue or something interesting they’re wearing.
- Post about the event. Take an interesting photo, add a caption about something new you learned and share the spirit of the event.
- Share content about the event. If the event has a hashtag, search it and share relevant and appropriate content.
- Connect with people in social media after the event. Send personalized LinkedIn connection requests to add people to your network. Don’t use the automated requests from LinkedIn. Tailor your invitations based on the conversations you had.
How do you make the most of a networking event?