We’ve all been there. The clock strikes happy hour, and you’re entering a room full or professionals whom you have never met before... Maybe it’s a charity event or a corporate holiday party for one of your clients. As you peer into the room you see an ocean of complete strangers. Nervous, you hesitantly proceed to the registration table to check in.
But, what’s next?
Take a deep breath, relax, and smile! Remember, there is a purpose for you being at this event. Ask yourself, “How do I want this evening to catapult my future goals?” “What kind of people would I like to meet tonight?”
We’ve got 6 steps to help you successfully navigate any networking event you’ll ever attend.
The registration attendants are the first warm faces to greet you at any event. Likely, they work for the organization and were possibly even expecting your arrival. Why not take the opportunity to introduce yourself and meet them? Ask if there is anything special you should expect throughout the evening and thank them for hosting. After all, part of the reason you came to this event is because something about the hosting organization was attractive to you.
You’re In …
How about a drink? I’m sure you’re not the only person feeling particularly parched. A glass of wine might also be the perfect thing to relax your nerves. Typically at events everyone will make their way to the bar at some point. Even if you don’t want a drink, it is still a lively part of the room to post up, get comfortable, and make a new connection.
Step Back ...
Once you’ve scoped out the room and realized that the space is nothing by which to be intimidated. You’ll likely notice synergetic motivations among the myriad of guests. Remind yourself that, as someone advancing in your career, you can never have enough individuals rallying behind your ambitious vision. Be of mind that in order to build a strong network of support it’s essential to meet new people.
No need to be overly strategic. You’ve chosen to come to this event for a reason and you’re only here for a limited amount of time. Rather than being solely concerned with who you engage, adopt the frame of mind of building an expansive network. Networks of any kind can posture you as you pursue goals in important areas of your life and career. Know what value you add. How does your work contribute to positive business outcomes? Understanding your added value proposition helps you to more readily build credibility and influence. As you listen and learn about others needs you can readily fill gaps to grow mutually beneficial relationships into the future.
Getting to know people should be enjoyable. Don’t let your business aspirations or goals cause you to develop narrow relationships with people. Building rapport is more easily done by having discussions around the areas closest to people’s hearts such as family, faith, callings, or passions. Don’t ignore the stuff that sometimes gets pushed off as “small talk.” At the end of the day, people usually choose to work with someone whose company they genuinely enjoy.
After engaging in a fun heart to heart with a new contact, it’s only going to cultivate if there is the appropriate follow up. After the event reach out and express that you enjoyed connecting with them, remind them of your conversation, and suggest getting together again in the future for coffee or lunch. Based on what you learned of them, maybe your follow up could be a great opportunity to extend an introduction to an expert you think they should know in their field.