Networking may sound like an intimidating and awkward affair that only business professionals get involved in but it’s one of the best ways to meet new people and find out about opportunities that may otherwise not come to light.
Research conducted by Virgin found that 85% of jobs are filled through networking, as many people prefer face-to-face communication. If you’re looking to find a new career or simply find out more about a particular industry, then networking events are among the best places to gain information and find new contacts.
Finding events in your local area is simple. Event websites list all types of networking groups, the most popular including EventBrite and Meetup. You can search for events by region or by an interest or industry.
Find Out Who’s Going
By researching the other people attending the event, you can begin to get an idea of who would be good to talk to. Event websites often request that all users set-up a personal profile, so that everyone knows what everybody else does and what their interests are. This gives you a great opportunity to find any like-minded people you would like to talk with – and settle any pre-networking nerves.
It may be tempting to take along a friend to help you feel more comfortable, but this is one of the worst things you can do in any networking event. Not only will you end up talking to your friend for the entire event, it may also stop others who think you are in a discussion from approaching you, therefore deterring any chance of new connections.
Attending any new social event is always a daunting experience but be open to just having a good conversation with people. You will find that it’s not all business talk, and many people will be open to hearing about you as an individual.
Start A Conversation
Once you’ve settled in to the networking environment be brave and start talking to people. A great way to begin is by asking open-ended questions that invite people to give a detailed response. For example, questions such as, ‘How did you get into…?’, or ‘What is your background?’ help to stimulate a more interesting conversation.
Social media is the very essence of modern networking so use it to your advantage throughout your networking journey. Twitter and LinkedIn are the most popular platforms for professionals and businesses. Setting up accounts on these may prove highly beneficial.
Once you’ve got your social profiles up and running you can use them for all sorts of networking activity, from finding other events, to following and connecting with people that you’ve already spoke with.
If you’ve made some great connections during a networking event, be sure to follow-up with them a few days afterwards. While you may feel like you’re being quite forward, time is important to many people, and if they’re busy you do not want to slip through the net and be forgotten.