Power of Networking
Networking… It’s such a blasé word that seems to be thrown around quite easily in our industry as there are so many networking events that people can attend, but was does it actually mean? It can refer to interacting with others, exchanging information and creating beneficial relationships with new contacts.
This sounds relatively easy and straightforward, however, for a newcomer to the industry, the thought of networking can be quite daunting. This can be due to many reasons such as being nervous or unconfident, or quite simply because you are new to it.
How to overcome networking fears:
Research the event you are attending – do your homework and find out who will be attending the event and what the main agenda/content is all about. Perhaps have a look at the social media channels of some of the people you would like to meet. Networking can start online first as opposed to always being face-to-face.
Set goals – once you’ve done your homework set yourself some realistic goals. This could simply be to meet two new people that you haven’t met before or meet someone in person who you have been engaging with online. Whatever your goal is make it realistic, so you don’t feel deflated, but driven to achieve it.
Think of some conversation openers – this will help break the ice. It could be something like ‘what brings you to this event?’, ‘do you have an interest in the topic?’. Whatever you ask, it is so important that you pay attention to the response and that you show some interest.
Take a friend with you – it is always easier to meet new people when you are in a group as you can bounce off each other. However, please don’t fall into the trap of only talking exclusively to people you already know throughout the whole evening! It is best to take someone who also has a common interest in the content of the event and who has set themselves similar goals to you. Move around the room and try and approach groups of people.
Positive body language – keep an eye on your posture by standing up straight and resisting the temptation to fold your arms. Also, show signs that you are actively listening, this can be done by maintaining eye contact, giving the occasional nod and smiling.
Be authentic – be yourself, don’t try to be anyone else or say anything that you yourself would consider to be cringe-worthy! The purpose of networking events is to build relationships because as we all know; people buy people.
Keep at it – remember that not all events are the same, as some will be much better and more useful than others. However, it is key to learn from less successful ones and move on, use it as part of the learning process.
Top tips I asked some of the ILEA UK board members for their top tips (because, well let’s face it, they are all really good at it!)
“Don’t only speak about work, get to know the person too as it will be easier to connect.” – Cecilia Lavin, Head of Sales London, Sodexo Prestige Venues & Events; ILEA UK Chapter President
“Ask people what they do and be interested in what they have to say, rather than just ramming a business card into their hand and moving on.” – Jacqui Partridge, Creative Director, Partridge Events; ILEA UK Programmes Team
“Get off your phone and look up and around you, eye contact is everything.” – Calum Di Lieto, Editor of C&IT Magazine; ILEA UK VP Marcomms
“When you meet someone new and have taken their business card, write down some key information on the back about them so you can remember details when you follow up with them.” – Georgia Ward, Head of Marketing, Custard Communications; ILEA UK Marcomms Team