5 tips to make networking work for you
By Kym Clark
When it comes to networking, I don’t think anyone gets truly excited to walk into a room full of people they don’t know, and edge their way into a group of people already engaged in conversation. It’s daunting just thinking about this isn’t it?!
As a business woman, networking events have been an essential part of my business development, but even after the 35 or so I’ve attended, I still get nervous as I enter the room.
What’s fascinating though is, I leave every event on a high! I’ve either clicked with someone personally, or have been able to offer advice, or I’ve met someone who I might be able to do business with. The worst part is the very first step inside, but the fact we go back for more, means there’s really something to this networking thing.
If you’re petrified about going to networking events, unfortunately I can’t remove that feeling for you, but I can step you through the process with some pointers to help turn your anxiety into positive butterflies.
1) Embrace the nerves. There’s a moment right before you leave the house where you can choose not to go – just go anyway! If you don’t, you’ll end up sitting at home watching Netflix and make no progress in your career. If you do, there’s a chance you’ll meet someone who could become very influential.
2) When you arrive, you’ll generally be met by a coordinator handing out name tags, or there’ll be a self-service table. Spend some time getting your name tag and chat to the person at the desk about the great turn out or ask how many of these they put on. This will make you feel like you’re mingling already, and you haven’t even walked into the room! The other option is to spend long enough getting your name tag, and someone else will be there soon to get theirs. A perfect chance to chat and ask if they’d like to go get a drink or walk into the room.
3) Find someone who’s standing by themselves – they will be so grateful for you coming to chat to them! Even if you find out that they’re just waiting for their friend, you’ll end up in a group conversation in just seconds.
4) If there’s a bar, head there and buy a drink. I find it’s often more comfortable holding onto a beverage in unfamiliar situations and it buys you time to chat to the bartender and meet people who join you at the bar. If someone does come up to the bar, be the first to say hi. Ask them if this is their first time or what their business is.
5) Be brave. If there’s a group of people chatting, simply ask if you can join in! No-one is going to say no!
Remember, you’re here for a reason and so is everyone else! Make the most of every opportunity that presents itself at these events, and if you can, be someone else’s saviour by speaking to them first.
Kym is the founder of She’s Empowered, offering industrial workwear for women Australia-wide. She is an entrepreneur, award winner, speaker, resource sector employee and advocate for inclusion and diversity in the workplace.