Networking can be nerve-racking! A motivational quote to remember what really matters anyone? Networking is about making a connection, but getting there people struggle with. You essentially have to approach a total stranger and figure out how to spark a viable conversation without any background. It can be tough and the brighter side is you’re not alone.
I still freeze up and revert back to my comfort zone, my friends. But, at the San Francisco Fashion Week reception a light bulb clicked for me. I knew I decided to attend SFFW because I wanted to network with other bloggers/fashionistas in the SF Bay Area. I knew if I walked out of that event having zero new contacts I would feel like a total failure. The pressure was on and with a clear goal, a good friend, a glass of wine, and a plan, I finally got the job done.
I approached a few ladies I had previously spoken to on Instagram but never met in person, and the others I simply approached with a ‘I like that” statement. Once the ice is broken the conversation takes off and it is your job to keep it going, if you want. I have put together a few quick tips of my own and from the awesome career website The Muse to help you upgrade your networking skills.
1. Have a goal– Before committing to attend an event/mixer consider why you need to go and turn that into a goal. If you need to meet some folks in the finance industry set out to meet at least 3 of these people. This helps you hold yourself accountable.
2.Prepare– Don’t do research, but do look at past event photos, venues, twitter mentions, and hashtags. Prior to the event check out what type of people will be there and any other information that will help you assess the scene. It will ease the stress of walking into an event blind.
3. Look Good– Everyone can spot a well-dressed person and this alone can be a reason people want to connect with you. Not to mention when you look good you feel good, so get dressed for the networking event like you would any other time.
4. Get the Mindset– Remember, almost everyone there is doing the same thing you are, you have no reason to be afraid. Networking is about making a connection just by being yourself and letting the person feel your radiance. Being around good energy just feels good. You are just as interesting and well-qualified as anyone you come in contact with; people want to know you too.
5. Consider your Pitch– If it is a fashion related event I scope the room to see whose style I like the most then I set out to talk to that person. I can walk up and genuinely say ‘I like your outfit’ or something of the sort. Scoping the room is a good way to pin down who you would like to get to know. During the scope you are also considering how to approach. This step should be performed with elegance and ease; you do not want to look obvious.
6. Have a Real Conversation– Avoid surface talk if you can and ask a few open-ended questions that will really get your prospect talking. If you’re really interested in them and their career do not be afraid to dig in and get them talking. It’s not about quantity it’s about quality, and if it takes a bit more time to have a conversation go for it.
7. Give and Get Contact Information– The whole point of networking is to walk away from the conversation with a new friend. if you don’t get their information how will you do this? Simply ask ‘would you happen to have a card?’ and if they say no ask for their social media profile or number. A lot of times I see people walk away after a great conversation that could have turned into a partnership, friendship, or opportunity. The people you meet know other people who you may need to know, think long-term. If you are interested in knowing the person more, exchange contact information.
8. Keep in Touch– I would say the hardest part of networking is maintaining the connection. Remember to send a few hello texts or emails to avoid losing touch. Also, do not wait to long to set-up a follow-up meet.