Your first networking experience can be
extremely daunting, unless you are one of those rare folk who can
navigate a room instantaneously and flawlessly. For those of you who are
new to networking, a room full of people awaiting an interesting
connection can be intimidating. However, it does not have to be that
way. There are many ways to feel more confident about your first try at
networking, here are a few that got me through my first event.
1. Dress as if it is your event. I have often found
that when I slightly overdress, I tend to perform better. Perhaps this
may ring more true for women, but I have found it to be an effective and
simple rule. if you put yourself into the mindset of the event host,
you are already preparing yourself for the networking. This can raise
your awareness as to the kind of attendees, social environment, etc.
2. It is very polite to interrupt. Outwardly, a
networking event can seem just like a more serious cocktail party
(depending on the event, of course). However, there is one rule that is
different here: do not be afraid to walk up to a group of fellow
networkers and introduce yourself. This does not mean that you should
give out your biography and monologue if people are having a
conversation. After introducing yourself, wait until an appropriate time
to give more information.
3. Find the host(s). If someone took all the effort
to plan an event, chances are they know someone that would be valuable
for you to meet. Although they are probably busy, most gracious hosts
will be more than happy help you with a connection. After all, they did
plan this event to create a networking environment.
4. Be a temporary wallflower. Spending a few minutes
watching the basic flow of the event can also be useful. I would not
recommend doing this for more than a few minutes, perhaps while you are
getting food, water or putting away your coat. After this, you may
observe someone who seems valuable and interesting.
5. Be casually prepared. As it is your first event, you should not expect yourself to know exactly what to do. However, it is important to formulate a goal. This
means you should prepare a concrete reason for being there, but be open
to the fact that the reason can change. For example, you may be at the
event to find a web designer, but you find a like-minded company looking
for some advice.
6. Play pretend. If you are not comfortable enough
to start talking about yourself in length, pretend that you are. By no
means am I promoting fakeness or dishonesty. However, it is within every
person's capacity to be a confident networker and it may take a few
minutes of pretending to realize that. If you can pretend to do it, then
you certainly can do it.
7. Don't get attached. At my first networking event,
I spoke to someone who began to offer me exactly what I wanted- an
internship with a personal column. After a few minutes of discussing
details, I realized our values were extremely discordant and had to
politely move on at an opportune moment. The next person I met offered
me what I wanted and much more! Therefore, it is crucial to know that
the room is full of possibilities- getting too attached to one can close
the doors to many others.
Although every event is different, these tips are aimed at being
universal and useful in a variety of situations. Networking events are
actually enjoyable as well as challenging. In some ways, it's like a
mystery dinner; it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen at
the networking event. Additionally, although you can read thousands of
articles in order to be prepared, it is best to take the plunge and just go. You will be pleasantly surprised at your capabilities!