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Make Every Networking Event a Success

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We all know networking is vital to professional development and career success. And while Woody Allen may have been on to something when he said that 70 percent of success in life is just showing up, the difference between just showing up and being prepared can be a missed opportunity. That’s why you should have a game plan before you go to every networking event. Not everybody is a born schmoozer, but you don’t have to be. The only thing it takes is preparation and a willingness to succeed.

Before you go to a networking event, look up the organization or list of organizations that are going to be there. Find the ones that you are interested in, and do a Google search. It’s going to be very helpful to know about the company’s services, products and mission so that you can converse more comfortably with the representatives. Demonstrating that you are knowledgeable about the organization will also make you stand out in a crowd of other candidates.

I think it’s also important to research the industry that the organization is in too so that you can show you have a broader understanding of what the company does and how it markets itself. Visiting an organization’s LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts isn’t a bad idea either. You want to make sure that you’ll be as comfortable as possible discussing the topics that will come up in conversation at the event.

One way to make a networking event less intimidating is to bring a friend. I don’t recommend bringing your shyest friend, but maybe the one who is outgoing and who will challenge you to come out of your shell. One thing you don’t want to fall into is hanging out in the corner of the event without engaging the people you need to talk to. You want to bring a friend as a confidence booster, not as a barrier preventing you from networking. If you think you’ll be nervous even with a friend, I strongly recommend preparing some things to say. This is something that I do, and it works.

All you need to do is prepare some icebreakers to get the conversation flowing. Once the ice is broken, things get a lot easier. Some things you can say are, “Hi my name is ______, what brings you to the event?” or “what speakers have you enjoyed/which organizations have you been impressed by?” If you start with these statements, and you’ve done your research on the organizations and industries, you should have no problem making conversation. And remember, practice makes perfect. It’s possible you may have a few awkward interactions at first, but you’ll get better if you can just brush it off and stay focused.

Dressing the part is crucial, too. You don’t want to show up to a networking event looking like a scruffy college student. It’s best to present yourself as somebody a recruiter is going to want to hire. This means wearing a suit and tie. If you don’t have one, there are many online retailers that will tailor suits to your exact specifications without ever having to step foot in a store. I’ve noticed that these online suits have a modern, trim look, as opposed to the baggy tux that you wore for your senior prom. Getting a great looking suit can be a huge confidence booster, and you’ll want to be looking your best as you are presenting yourself professionally to potential employers.

If you’ve got yourself a nice suit, done your research, and prepared icebreakers but are still struggling at networking events, then I’d recommend studying others. There’s no better way to learn than to study how the best do it, and then practicing repeatedly. Even if you don’t think you’re doing very well at events, showing up and doing your best is still very much worth it. What you may lack in social skills or networking savvy can be mitigated by your enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. If you stumble over your words, don’t sweat it. Employers can spot passion and enthusiasm from a mile away, and it’s that young, energetic, risk-taking spirit that organizations look for in potential candidates.

Do your homework, and then go give it a shot. You won’t regret trying.

Until next time,
TMJ