I’m in a room full of strangers and now I have to sell myself. I look down to discover that I’m not naked, which means this isn’t a nightmare. No my friends, it’s a networking event.
OK, so I may be exaggerating a bit. But no one’s pretending like networking events aren’t awkward: the shaking of sweaty hands, the instant forgetting of names, the fumbling of business cards (are business cards lame now? I’m getting anxious just thinking about it). Done right, however, networking events can be super valuable, and once you get into the swing of things, actually kinda fun. Having been to plenty of them myself, I’ve compiled a few quick ways to help take the nightmare out of networking events. Hope you enjoy the hack!
Peep The Guest List
Get an idea of who’s attending the event by doing some online research beforehand. If the attendee list is public, spend some time online-stalking (not really, but a little bit) attendees who seem like they may be a relevant connection. If there’s no attendee list, search the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram to see who may be talking about the event socially. #CleverNotCreepy
Head To The Bar
Seriously. People at the bar are the friendliest, and they don’t call alcohol the social lubricant for nothing. Get yourself a beer or cocktail and begin your small talk with someone close by. You’re guaranteed to at least have one skill in common with them—the bending of the ol’ elbow. Don’t drink? Respect. The food station is always a safe bet.
Perfect Your Pitch
“So, what do you do?” It may not be the most glamorous of questions, but it will definitely be the most common—so be prepared to answer. Forget about your 30-second pitch; figure out how to succinctly respond in 15 seconds. That way, you’ve got at least another 15 seconds of material to answer any follow-up questions before you ask them what they do—and then excuse yourself to get another drink 😉
Prepare A One-Liner
I know this sounds sort of sociopathic and like you’re pretending to be a real person, but we’ve all gotten stuck in an awkward conversation where you’re not sure what to say, and then end up just…standing there. Oooph. To avoid that moment, prepare something interesting, relevant, and preferably funny to talk about. Check out BuzzFeed.com, Inc.com, Upworthy.com. What not to talk about? The weather, politics, how you got fired from your last job…
Set A Goal
Don’t feel obligated to be the last person standing at the event. Set a realistic goal for the number of quality connections you want to make, and then let yourself slide out. That way, you’ll feel accomplished without feeling guilty.
Thank The Organizer
Find whoever hosted the event and thank them. Event organizers are super cool, in-the-know, and great people to know in the community, so be sure to connect with them and let them know you had a good time. Yes, even if you didn’t.
Ready to shake some hands and schmooze with industry folk? Test out our hack by finding a networking event in your area, and let us know how it goes in the comments below.