Nearly all events come with the prerequisite ‘networking hour’ - but how do you get the most out of it? And what happens if you are not a natural networker? We pulled together five tips to help you get the most out of the next networking event you attend! Have your own? Throw them in the comments.
1. Choose a networking situation that fits your personality
Not all networking is created equal. Facilitated networking, or networking that has a bit of an ice-breaker element, is great if you find it hard to strike up a conversation with the stranger next to you. This might be with a thought-provoking name badge (Creative Mornings Auckland) or a warm up activity (Startup Weekend Auckland) or even a round the table intro (GridAKL). Some events offer a glass of wine to get the conversation flowing (SMCAKL) whilst others leave you to fend entirely for yourself. If you are a networking novice, maybe ease yourself into it by going to some facilitated networking events before taking the plunge into the go-it-alone space.
2. Decide what you need out of it
Identifying why you are heading to a networking event helps you get what you want out of it. Do you want to find people in a similar business situation to you, or people in the same industry as you for support? Are you wanting to rub shoulders with startups a little down the road from where you are to gather insights, or make inroads with potential investors? Do you simply want to surround yourself with people from the industry to get an idea of what is in the ecosystem, or are you wanting to get the inside goss on other people's businesses to hone your own idea? Establish your needs before you head out the door, and you can choose events designed for your purpose and be able to network in a style that will lead you to your desired results.
3. Go in knowing what is going to happen
You will find the more you go to networking events the more familiar the questions will become. You will inevitably meet someone next to you at the round table/bar/pizza, they will turn to you and say “Hey my name is ___”, you will possibly be asked if this is your first time to this series of events, or if you have been to this particular event space, before the inevitable “So what do you do?”. Be prepared to be asked the following:
- What you do, the elevator pitch edition (see here for pitch tips).
- How far along with your idea/concept/startup you are.
- Who your competitors would be.
- What your next steps are.
- The why of your business - the whole reason you started this shebang.
- What makes you different.
Going in knowing the above, paired with the knowledge of what you want to get out of it (see tip two), will have you walking out of your networking with a bustling bunch of business cards or a noggin full of new insights.
4. Practice makes perfect
Look, in an ideal world we would all be absolutely amazing at talking about who we are and what we do to anyone. But this is not an ideal world, and right now you need to be able to tell that guy you just met what you do eloquently. Before heading out into the big bad world try your lines out on someone else. Chat to your mum, your friend, your flatmate, your significant other or your dog about the basics, until it feels fluid and natural.
5. Leave the friend at home
Last but by no means least, it can be hard to go it alone to events BUT nothing will make you actually go up to a stranger and talk to them more than the fact you are there by yourself. Ditch the safety blanket, and go it alone!
Anya is the brand and communications wrangler for GridAKL. As a non-native networker her favourite way to strike up conversation is by wearing something strange. Follow her on twitter here.