When you think of networking events, you may initially picture an avid networker: a guy with slicked back hair and wads of business cards bulging out of his pockets. We’ll call him Slimy Stan. Slimy Stan not-so-subtly scans the room, and proceeds to go around to every group pitching himself and leaving a business card in the hand of everyone who crosses paths with him, without any intention of even learning their names.
Slimy Stan wants to connect with you on LinkedIn in hopes that he can use the “in” to land his dream job in the future. Moments after reluctantly accepting his business card and placing it in your bag, you notice an unsettling residual feeling from the whole encounter. You’re not physically slimy, but from the feeling in your gut, you might as well be! Let’s explore a few easy ways to approach networking events to gain the most value out of the experience.
How to Network Without Being Annoying
1. Dress for success
Even if you’re not a standard introvert, it can be hard to feel confident making a first impression if you’re donning an outfit that screams, “I literally woke up like this and just don’t care!” Whether you’re killing it at your Fortune 500 role or you’re in-between gigs, presenting yourself properly can help boost your confidence in uncomfortable situations. Fake it ‘til you make it, right?
The key to networking without being annoying is to dress the part. Opt for structured pieces, while keeping in mind that less is more. If it’s summer go for a collared shirt; in winter months, throw a blazer on top. Power colors like emerald green, ruby red, and royal blue will also help you project your most confident self.
Quick Tips: If you tend to wear accessories, don’t forget to accessorize! There’s a je ne sais quoi about a fresh manicure, earrings and a bracelet or broach that can tie your look together adding originality and polish. The idea is to be memorable, but not obnoxious in your presentation.
2. Master your elevator pitch
You may only have a few seconds to say who you are and what you do before the metaphorical “talking stick” is passed to the next person in your networking group. You can do better than just saying, “Hi, I‘m Kelly and I do marketing.” Don’t be afraid to go on for another sentence or two, but cut it off there to avoid evoking yawns.
Quick Tips: Struggling to describe yourself? Your Good&Co StrengthsCard is a great place to start! Include your name and the problem you solve with your work. For example: “Hi, I’m Noah and I work with startups to get their payroll in order as they grow.”
3. Set your intention
Do you want to meet a certain someone in attendance? Is there a speaker you are especially excited to hear? Maybe you’re new to the area and want to meet new people? Whatever it is, before you set out it’s best to have an idea of what you hope to gain from the experience and keep it front of mind the entire time.
Quick Tips: Establish a career goal for yourself. What do you love in your work? How can you expand upon that? If you don’t love exactly what you’re doing, brainstorm things you love about your current position and what you would like to add on in the next one. When attending events, focus on the positives of your work, keeping the conversation positively skewed will make sure you are remembered for the right reasons.
4. Ask more questions
If you drone on about yourself or everything you are working on, people will eventually get bored. Instead, charm people with your curiosity. Let people know you’re interested in them, and they’ll find you more interesting, paving the way for a quality connection that feels mutually beneficial.
Quick Tips: Get curious with your questions! What’s something this person learned this week? What inspired them to get into their field? Be eager to learn, and you, young grasshopper, will reap the benefits of heightened knowledge and connectivity.
5. Make one new friend
Don’t be a Slimy Stan by speed talking to everyone at the event. It won’t only be exhausting, but also surface-level. Instead, aim to network intelligently: when you click with someone, keep the conversation going, and if you don’t click, then move on.
Quick Tips: Dig deeper and connect about career goals, favorite restaurants, or whatever comes up naturally in the conversation. Exchange contact information and set-up a time to hang out.
Although at times networking may seem like a chore, it will give you the opportunity to learn from notable speakers, and make authentic connections along the way!
About the Author
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to tweet @StephanieThoma and we’ll ensure you are network-event-ready!