How to Network in Person
In today’s digital landscape, making new connections at in-person events can seem intimidating, especially if you’re used to doing this from the comfort of your keyboard with plenty of time to think about whom you’re speaking to and what you’re going to say.
On the other hand, some experts say that 70 percent of people found their current job through networking, while others place that number as high as 85 percent! Perhaps this is because as many as 80 percent of new jobs are never listed but instead filled by networking or from within the company.
Here’s what you need to know to be successful at in-person networking events, so you’ll have more and better options as you advance in your career.
1. Find Networking Events
It might seem like an obvious first step to networking effectively, but starting at the beginning is always best. There are many networking opportunities hosted by the IAW, and you can also check sites like Meetup and Eventbrite to see what else is going on in your industry and your area. Facebook and LinkedIn are also great places to find events either through your current network of connections or by joining groups to expand your possibilities. If you’re looking for something directly in your community, try checking with the local chamber of commerce or the rotary club to see if there are events or meetings that might be beneficial for you to attend. Be sure to read all the registration information and requirements. Many events require you to purchase a ticket while others may be more informal and open to the public. Remember to arrive at each event on time, with a clean and professional appearance, and with plenty of business cards to pass around.
2. Engage in Conversation
Standing quietly in the corner will not grow your network. If you’re learning how to network at a conference as an introvert or you’re just inexperienced, preparing ahead of time will help considerably. Talking about yourself and your career goals are good, but you also want to learn a bit about some of the attendees so you can approach people and start a few conversations, too. For example, if you can see a list of attendees that have pre-registered for the event, choose a few who stand out and send an email or LinkedIn connection request. A simple message such as, “I see that you’re attending the IAW networking event in LA tonight, and I look forward to meeting you there!” can be enough to break the ice and set the foundation for a productive conversation in person.
3. Pay Attention
Be an active listener during any presentations and engage during any Q&A sessions. People will notice if you are playing a role in the event rather than just being a passive observer. When you are introduced to others, learn who they are and identify opportunities for you to help each other. Ask questions and give people time to speak so you can gather as much information as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for business cards and contact information!
4. The Follow-Up
Following up with new connections within 24 hours is crucial because you want to solidify the relationship while the person still remembers your interaction at the event. Connect through IAWomen.com if you are at a member event, or use LinkedIn to build your virtual network. Send a personalized message showing you are interested in continuing the relationship and try to schedule time for a coffee meeting in the future.
Consistency Pays Off
When it comes to learning how to network at an event, consistency is key. The more you attend these events and step outside your comfort zone, the easier it will be and the more effective you will get at building your personal connection network. Set goals for yourself to engage in networking activities a few times a week, whether it’s attending events, messaging previous connections, or meeting up for coffee. Lastly, be sure to thank anyone who helps you along the way, and give back to anyone who reaches out to you for your expertise.
IAW members can connect with their local chapter at an upcoming in-person event. View the calendar and register here: www.iawomen.com/events.