We’ll be at the IEEE trade show next week (come see us at booth #5030 if you’re going to be there too!), so this seemed like a good time to post a 3-part “How to” for networking. No one really enjoys networking except, maybe, for that one friend/colleague who seems to know everyone. We all have to do it though, so we might as well do it well.
In an ideal situation, a networking event is supposed to be a time and place set up to allow us to meet new people and reconnect with old friends. You might run into a former colleague and say, “It’s been ages, hasn’t it? Let’s have coffee next week.”, which later turns into a new partnership. You might meet a vendor who can solve a particularly annoying problem that you have been dealing with for the last year. We’ve even heard of people meeting at a networking event and then getting married a few years later!
However, networking can be tough, especially if you’re introverted. These tips can be used for any networking event, so we’ve categorized our tips into “before the event”, “during the event” and “after the event”.
Before the Event
Understand your objective. Why are you here? What do you hope to accomplish? Are you looking for new customers? Are you looking for a new partner?
Strategize with your colleagues. Tell them that you will be
Research the event. Who is attending? Fill in this sentence: “If I haven’t met ______________, I will have wasted my time here.” Where is this event? Can you get there easily? Networking events can be stressful. There’s no need to add more stress to it by realizing, 20 minutes before the event, that it’s at the OTHER convention center…the one in another city. What’s the dress code – do you need a suit? You don’t want to show up in a suit and see that everyone is wearing jeans or vice versa. Call a colleague who has attended the same event in the past and ask what he/she wore or contact the organizer to ask about dress codes.
Eat before the event. Where possible, please eat before you go, regardless of whether there’ll be food there. If there is no food, and you don’t eat beforehand, you will be starving and that will only add to your discomfort. If there is food, you will end up doing the awkward “I’m going to answer your question as soon as I finish chewing and swallowing the giant meatball I just put in my mouth” gesture as you speak with the CEO you’re trying to impress.
Go with an open mind. You never know who you’ll meet there. Be open to all possibilities.
Don’t psych yourself up too much. You’re not the only person there who dislikes networking. It will all work out in the end. Memorize all emergency exits – just kidding….actually….
Obtain a map of the event and make a mental note of where the exits and bathrooms are located. On the off chance that there is a natural disaster, and you are instructed to calmly walk to the nearest exit, you’ll want to know where they are. Knowing the location of the bathrooms is also very important for the avoidance of other kinds of disasters.
If you’re introverted, make a goal of meeting X number of people…and then meet one more.