By Online Career Tips Staff
Attending a networking event seems daunting at first. You have to make conversation with strangers, gauge their level of interest in you, make yourself memorable and offer your business card in the hope that other people accept it.
But good networking relies on more than simply handing out your business cards to everyone you meet, whether it’s at networking events, trade shows or social occasions. Some preparation and social skills are vital. Here are 8 ways to improve your networking event skills and make personal connections:
1. Be prepared for the standard networking questions. “What do you do?” or “Who do you work for?” are typical questions during networking events. Talk about your areas of specialty in an interesting way. An intriguing elevator pitch, amusing stories, shared hobbies or informational tidbits help in hooking someone’s interest.
2. Strive to make connections, not contacts. Focus on making high-quality personal connections, not just giving out business cards. Ask your new contacts to join you at a local coffee shop to get better acquainted or to request their advice, and maintain your contact with them over time. These connections can become your advocates and may send you job opportunities from their own networks.
3. Choose your networking events carefully. Some events are industry-specific, while other events are comprised of local business owners or Meetup.com people dedicated to a particular topic or cause. It’s important to do your research before you attend any group to determine if it’s worthwhile for you to attend.
Contact the group’s leader and ask him or her to explain about the group’s structure and members in greater detail. Keep in mind that industry networking events often have a higher charge for non-members and adjust your budget accordingly to handle the expense.
4. When you’re asked for your business card, hand it over with your information facing toward the requestor. Take your time while presenting your card and give your new contact a few seconds to scan it. This way, your name and area of specialty might be more easily recalled when you re-connect with that person.
5. Make notes about your new connections. At a networking event, take time to write down a few key facts about each person you meet. The back of a business card is ideal for writing quick notes about each person’s interests and where and when you met. This practice helps you personalize your LinkedIn requests and goes a long way to providing meaningful and memorable interactions.
6. Listen for common interests and business pains during conversations, and respond accordingly. Common interests such as movies, kids, sports or books are useful for starting conversations, while business pains are an opportunity to offer your assistance and demonstrate your skills.
7. Remember that social media is a viable method of networking. Participating in Twitter chats or LinkedIn discussion groups can jump-start business relationships. Use your LinkedIn network to find second-level connections at your ideal companies and ask for introductions via email. Strike up conversations with those people about their company or what they do, and develop the relationship over time to convert people into connections.
8. Keep up your relationships, even after you’re employed. As you settle into a new job, it’s easy to get busy and neglect your relationships with your connections.
However, maintaining those personal relationships is essential and it’s easy to do. Email or call your connections to ask how they’re doing, or send them a link to an industry article or social media posting they’d enjoy. Keep your network strong and healthy!
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