There comes a time in most business professionals’ lives when they enter the networking circuit. While it may seem like there is nothing more daunting than walking into a room full of strangers and needing to make professional impressions and new connections, there are actually some simple steps you can keep in mind in order to navigate your first networking event with ease. With these tips in mind, you can mentally prepare before the event and enter the night with confidence about your goals. Here are 12 tips from industry professionals to help you succeed at your first networking event.
Before the Event
Dress Your Best
Networking is all about putting your best foot forward and representing the best version of yourself. After all, a networking event is a bit like trying to sell yourself as a valuable asset to those at the party, even if you are actually aiming to sell them on your business–tonight, you represent the company. Therefore, you definitely want to be looking your best. No casual wear or even business casual should be worn; generally, the attire for networking events is business wear but not as dressed up as formal wear. In order to make the best impression as a professional, don’t dress too casually or in attire inappropriate for a business event. You want to present yourself in a clean cut manner, so be well informed about your audience at the event and style yourself to follow suit. However, you do want to be comfortable, so a networking event probably isn’t the best opening to try a new look that will leave you feeling uncomfortable all night. Just aim to be the best version of yourself.
Ryan Lee, Co-founder and CEO Rooted
Understand Your Goals For the Event
Before you arrive at the event, consider the audience you’ll encounter there and set goals for what you hope to accomplish. Networking is not only about introducing yourself to others but also about making genuine connections. Ask yourself, what do you hope to get out of the event? Maybe you want to make a few concrete connections with others in your field. Maybe you aim to improve your confidence and your goal is to introduce yourself in an impressive way. Setting simple, achievable goals beforehand is a great way for you to leave at the end of the night feeling accomplished, especially during the overwhelm of your first few events.
Isaiah Henry, CEO Seabreeze Management
During the Event
Hand Out Your Business Cards
You will want to remember to bring your business cards to networking events so you can hand them out to interested parties. Networking events are the prime opportunities to pass around your business cards, but be strategic about how you do so. Don’t be the person who gives out their card to everyone unprompted, as it will come across unsolicited and maybe even turn people off. What you should do is watch for the perfect opportunity to leave your card with someone you’ve had a real conversation with. I like to offer to leave my card at the end of a conversation as it is beginning to wind down, because then you can exit that conversation having left an impact.
Anish Patel, Founder Tinto Amorio
Make a Good First Impression
It’s true when you hear the expression that first impressions are everything. At an event like a networking night, where there are many people representing numerous businesses and most attendees don’t know each other, a first impression truly counts. This doesn’t mean you need to make a grand entrance when you enter the room, but do be mindful of how you’re coming across with each new meeting.
Lori Price, Founder Pixielane
Introduce Yourself Confidently
At networking events, you have to promote yourself and your business. With each new person you interact with you will need to introduce yourself. Practice a brief introduction about yourself ahead of time that you can offer when you enter into new conversations and meet new people. Keep your intro short and mention only the key points of who you are professionally, but try to structure your introduction in a way that will make others want to ask further questions. People will base their impressions on you about the impact you make during your introduction since they have no other opportunity to know more about who you are–so speak confidently about yourself.
Alix Greenberg, Founder ArtSugar
Spend Time Listening to Others
Networking is not all about talking about yourself and your business ventures; it’s also hugely about listening and getting to know others. Be respectful and allow each person to speak in an open conversation. Nobody wants to spend time with the person who only talks about themself and won’t let anyone else get a word in. Plus, statistics show that people feel supported and respected by good listeners. You might think that the only way to make an impact at a networking event is by speaking up, but people will also notice when they’ve encountered a good listener, and it will make your conversations better when you get to know each other.
Jordan Smyth, Founder Gleamin
It might seem like cliche advice you heard from your parents growing up, but it really is important to be yourself when networking. Many people feel as though they need to present a certain persona at business events, but networking is all about showing the best sides of yourself; in order to do that you need to be real and honest. People gravitate to those who are genuine. Lose the front and just be yourself. Others will like you for who you are.
Jim Beard, COO Box Genie
Get to know others deeper by asking good questions. Listen to their introductions about themselves and then ask questions about what they do and why they like their work. You can also ask questions about networking in general if you’re new to the networking scene. You might even make connections with others who relate to your inexperience with such events and you’ll probably also receive some pretty awesome answers.
Remon Aziz, Chief Operating Officer Advantage Rent A Car
Foster Genuine Connections
You should never enter a business event with the goal of networking the entire room. Firstly, that’s a difficult intention, and secondly, it will limit you from finding genuine conversations. You should instead enter a networking event with the aim of fostering a few solid connections and engaging in real conversations. Narrowing down your audience allows you to experience genuine connections that may end up being future relationships. After all, isn’t that what networking is all about?
Sarah Pirrie, Brand Director Healist Naturals
Share Your Contacts
Although you are at the networking event in order to establish new business connections, remember that you also know people who others may want to get in touch with. Don’t be the only person you expect to receive new contacts–you can also hand out your relevant contacts to the people you meet. I guarantee they will appreciate it.
Kashish Gupta, Founder and CEO Hightouch
After the Event
Follow Up With Your New Connections Afterwards
It is always a good idea to follow up after a networking event with the most promising contacts or those you established the best connections with. This step reminds people who you are and also makes them feel seen. Plus, it demonstrates that you’re serious about furthering your connections, which can only lead to good things–be it a job interview, a deeper relationship, or a friend at the next networking event.
Jessica Herrin, Founder Stella and Dot
Become a Regular At Networking
Truly effective networking spans more than one single event. After you have aced your first networking gig with these tips, go out again and again and improve your networking skills. You can follow up with previously made connections at the next event, as well as get to know more people. The more you network, the more confident you will become in that environment.
Greg MacDonald, CEO and Founder Bathorium
Now that you know the steps to take in order to enter your first networking event with ease, you can repeat them each time you need to attend a professional event. The hardest part of networking is the nerves that come beforehand, so eradicate your concerns with these tips and enter the night confidently. The best news is that you can repeat these steps each time you enter a networking evening, even once you are a pro.