Is there anything worse than public speaking?
For some, there is. It’s walking into a networking event or function and not knowing anyone there. Some find it far more intimidating to have to integrate into a discussion, or to introduce themselves to perfect strangers in this type of setting than they do speaking in front of an audience or group.
You are not alone – it’s common for people to hunt in packs at networking events. In other words, go with someone they know – a safety net. Unfortunately, this often means you end up spending the entire time speaking with the person you already know and you miss any opportunity to meet new people and to expand your network. Even worse, this fear can mean you avoid attending networking events altogether.
Here are a few tips for getting the most from a networking event:
- Have a sense of who else will be attending. What type of function is it and who will it attract? This allows you to anticipate the type of people, the work they do and what industries or organisations they might represent.
- Consider what you may have in common. Is it the same industry, profession or interest? Go prepared with specific questions of people to demonstrate that you are interested and also have an awareness of what is happening more generally in your common area.
- Do more listening than talking. People will actually remember you more for this.
- Have your three minute ‘elevator speech’ ready for the question: ‘what do you do?’
- Seek out networking events that have structure. For example, a luncheon with designated seating arrangements can remove the angst of knowing where to sit and by whom, or attending a ‘speed networking event’ which enables you to move every three minutes around the table to meet someone new. These can be extremely productive – when you know you only have three minutes to get to know someone, the discussion is easy!
Here are a few questions to break the ice and assist you to make a connection at a networking event:
- What brings you to this event?
- Do you attend many networking events? Which ones do you find valuable?
- What do you do and how did you come to be in your line of work?
- What do you enjoy most about what you do?
- Have you always worked in this type of role/industry?
- What are your current business challenges and how are you addressing them?
- What changes are happening in your business at the moment?
Whilst networking online is readily available – and recommended through sites like LinkedIn – physically attending events, conferences and functions relevant to your industry or job is extremely important. Not only is a personal network valuable as a source of information which may assist a current workplace problem, project or challenge, it serves to keep you up-to-date, and provides a forum for support and to bounce ideas. It is also invaluable when you are next seeking a career move.