Specially arranged networking opportunities are continuously becoming more prevalent as city centre business hubs thrive. More and more people are experimenting with new ways of making face to face connections as the internet and the world of social media continues to reveal potential partnerships and collaborations that could easily be brought to life. However, a networking event can sometimes feel like quite a “manufactured” environment – you’re thrown together with a number of strangers you haven’t met in an organic manner after all – and, for that reason, many people find them difficult to navigate. Here’s a brief guide to help you make networking easier for yourself so that you can enjoy the best results possible.
First and foremost, don’t force yourself to attend every networking event or opportunity that you come across. It’s important to ensure that your time and energy is being spent wisely. This goes doubly for individuals who find networking a little stressful. Save yourself for opportunities where you know you’re more likely to make good connections. One of the best ways to do this is to research the companies or individuals who have registered to attend the occasion, then take a look at their background. Inspect their websites, go through their LinkedIn profiles and make a list of individuals you’d like to make a connection with, along with a couple of questions you’d like to ask them. This way, you’ll come prepared and won’t feel at a loose end.
It’s extremely important to dress in a way that represents how you’d like to be perceived, but it’s even more vital to feel comfortable. Don’t wear new shoes that fit questionably at best, and do make sure you won’t be too hot – particularly if you’re prone to nervous sweats! If you have a go-to outfit that is smart but comfy, that should be your first consideration. Layers are good – perhaps a well-fitting blazer with something light underneath – so that you can remove or add items in response to the room temperature. Make sure you’re not carrying too much with you, as you don’t want to waste your energy worrying about where to put everything and whether it’s all in a safe place!
Relax – There’s No Pressure
If you find that you’re worried or nervous prior to networking, the first thing to do is to discern exactly what is troubling you. If you’re worried that you won’t get to meet everyone you’re interested in, just remember that you don’t have to – all you have to do is make sure you have a means of getting in touch with them afterward. If you’re concerned that you won’t have anything to talk about, that’s fine – maybe rehearse some simple conversation openers to get you into the flow of things. If you reckon you might find yourself hovering around the outside of the room, unable to engage, that’s Ok too; if you attend networking events regularly, the chances are that many of the others in the room will too, and it is very likely that you’ll meet them further down the line. Many of them will be in the same boat as you anyway, and you may find that you’re all on better form the next time you meet!
Don’t Trap Yourself
More often than not, there is absolutely nothing to stop you from taking a breather. Wander outside for some air, pop next door to see a friend or excuse yourself to answer a couple of “urgent” emails on your phone. Networking events really don’t have to be full on – you’re free to do what you wish, and you’ll be at your best when you’ve given yourself a break and taken time to assess the situation from a distance.
Free food and drink are often par for the course at networking events, and having a drink or two can often help relaxation and ease the flow of conversation. Many more than that, though, and you may find it difficult to concentrate. Having a few too many may also lead to a fear of making a fool of yourself, and might just prompt you to hang back. Even eating too many canapés can lead to discomfort that will prevent you presenting yourself at your best!
However badly you feel you’ve done at one event, there will be many, many more opportunities to make connections and forge partnerships. Everyone has “off days”, so, if this is one of yours, don’t sweat. All you can do is prepare as best you can each time, and if you’ve had an unsuccessful attempt despite doing so, it likely wasn’t your fault at all. If you’re unhappy with how it’s gone, don’t overthink it, just dust yourself down and look around for the next opportunity. The more you get involved in, the easier it will become!
Signature Works regularly hosts networking events for both members and non-members. From Cocktail Masterclasses to Vocal Presentation Skills with Su Grainger, visit our Events section to view what’s coming up. Alternatively, if you would like to visit the Bling Bling building and find out more about Signature Works, simply call us today on 0151 558 1566.