The Blog of Jake Kelfer
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When you think of a fun time, do you immediately think of going to a networking event or professional conference? Probably not. You probably consider binge watching the latest season of The Office on Netflix or going to 2 for 1 happy hour a fun time.
When you go to a networking event, you have two choices. You can go and wish you were somewhere else the whole time or you can commit to networking and try to make some new connections. And, let me tell you something… it’s easy to spot the people who are there because they feel they have to be and the people who are there because they want to be.
Part of being successful at a networking event is having a plan and strategy but more importantly having fun. Just because you are at a professional event, doesn’t mean you can’t laugh a bit and enjoy yourself. I recommend mixing business with a human element of getting to know someone’s journey and story. The best relationships don’t come from only discussing serious topics; they come from finding commonalities.
Don’t get me wrong, you want to be professional and you want to make sure you learn, but when you go to a networking event, here are some approaches to liven up your experience and leave people wanting to talk with you more.
The Journeyman Approach
For this, your strategy is to learn about the journey, both personal and professional. Start by asking someone what is your story or what’s been your journey to this point? Listen to what they have to say and see if there is something on their journey you can relate to.
The Follow Up Question Approach
Start this approach by asking a general question that can have plenty of answers. As the other person talks, find something that peaks your interest or something that you can ask another question about. Then continue to ask questions to learn about the other person more and more. Remember, people love to talk about themselves, so let them.
The Why Are You Here Approach
Everyone has a reason for being at a networking event. Sometimes it’s for new business. Sometimes it’s to look for new hires or business partners. Other times, it’s because a company asked you to go. Figure out why someone is at the event and see if you can help make their time more fun.
The I’m Not Sure What to Talk About Approach
Sometimes we can be super nervous and not know what to ask people, so we become paralyzed and avoid meeting people. If you aren’t sure what to talk about ask them how the event is going, where are they from, what their favorite place is they’ve traveled for work/pleasure, or simple questions that get the conversation rolling. Saying hi is the first step to starting a conversation.
The You Should Check This Out Approach
Often times, networking events or conferences require travel. If you are from the host site or location, offer to provide a few local recommendations. Maybe even offer to take the person you are talking to out. Restaurants, happy hours, entertainment are all good ideas.
There are many other approaches you can take but these are just some of the ones I’ve seen used successfully. Here is a quick list of a few approaches that I would try to avoid.
The Know It All Approach
The I Can’t Shut Up Approach
The I’m Hiding in the Corner and Never Speaking Approach
The I’m So Great Approach
It’s important to note that just because someone is super outgoing doesn’t mean they will be good at networking. A lot of you might feel anxious going into a room full of strangers knowing you have to talk for several hours and that’s okay. Everyone has their own communication style and it’s your job to let your style come through while making the effort to really get to know someone else.
Before you attend any networking event or conference, you should know why you are going and what it is you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to get hired? Are you trying to make a new connection for future business? Are you trying to find a partner? Are you just there to enjoy an industry night?
At the core of every networking event or conference you go to, give yourself the best chance you can at meeting new people. Always try to find a way you can add value to someone. See if there is someone you can connect them to and be proactive with the follow up.
What approach do you like to take when going to a networking event or conference?