Meeting people and making new friends: the key to every successful event out there. But for some of us more introverted types there is this fear of events, especially business ones, as meeting and engaging new people can be tiresome. Have you ever gone to a big event where you were supposed to promote your business or perhaps attract an investor and you felt like a tiny fish in an ocean full of people? I’m sure you did. We did too. It’s not just huge events … the same feeling can occur even after a conference or a dinner, when it’s time for “networking”.
First of all, you have to know that when it comes to networking, some people got the natural skills, some don’t. It’s as simple as that. But that doesn’t mean that people that are shy or introvert cannot be skilled networkers.
OK, now let’s assume you are one of the people who are not comfortable when it comes to attend an event and start networking. Here are five tricks that will help you improve your networking skills and achieve what you want when you go to an event to meet people.
1. Get the right information
First thing’s first. When you plan on attending a new event – you have to be informed. And when we say informed, we don’t mean to know information about the event. Well, that is useful too, but first of all you have to try and find out who is going to be there.
Who are the people you want to talk to, what do they do and how do they look? Do you know someone who will be attending the event? Someone that might introduce you to others you may want to meet?
Let’s assume that you are going to a conference where you want to meet an important investor.You know that he is coming to the event (so that’s the first piece of information that you must have) but you don’t know anything else about him, except his position. So now it’s time for research: Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, anything works. This way, you can find out important details about the person you want to meet. Besides professional information, you might even find details about his personal life, such as hobbies. All of this information will help you get to know the person better, feel a little bit more confident and provide you with some good conversation subjects in case you get the chance to do that. Also, every major event has a dedicated app for networking. You might want to use this before the event starts so you can set up some good meetings with people you want to meet, leading to better event networking skills.
2. You and yourself
Networking is all about you. The more confident you are, the better your event networking skills will be. It’s pretty hard to start chatting with someone who is shy, introvert and reluctant to interact.
So, plan your event, locate your “targets” and follow the dress code. That’s pretty important. I know that sounds a bit rough but fitting in is a good choice when attending events. The difference you want to achieve is in your speech and attitude. Rather be known for your character and personality than your funky choice of styling.
Prepare some clean-looking business cards and don’t be shy to share them. Choose the right people and engage them before giving them the card. Nobody will remember your card unless they are interested in you.
3. Where are the drinks?
If you go to conferences or large events, make sure you know the location of the bar or cafeteria. That’s where people are relaxed and approachable. Many are attending the event to do exactly what you want to do, so don’t be shy to sit at a table with other people.
The drinks, sandwiches and cakes are a good way to break the ice and start a conversation… or if you’re a smoker, always be prepared to light someone’s cigarette. Who knows, maybe that person will be just the guy you need. And the best advice is that you must always be prepared to meet the people.
As a personal example, when we were networking to find people interested in Oveit, we happened to meet a potential investor on the airplane, sitting right next to us, as we were coming back from a major event. You never know whom you’re going to meet or whom you are going to talk to, so it’s for the best you are ready for it at all times.
4. Get the right business cards
Considering you do everything right, by the time the event finishes, you will have a lot of business cards. You might want to sort them out as soon as possible. I found out that using a pen to scribble some extra details on the business cards can help a lot.
You might remember all the details of everyone on the business cards from the event, but what’s going to happen in a couple of days? Memory can sometimes be a pain, so it’s best to avoid the problems by jotting down extra information about the people on the cards. And it might help to use different pockets to place the cards. For example, you could put the very important business cards in the right pocket. Simple and easy to do.
5. Follow up
The hard work comes when you have to follow up. You attended the event, you’ve met the right people, maybe a lot of them… but so did they. So, now it’s time to follow up and approach each and every one of the people you are interested in. Make sure to write effective and short e-mails.
Remind the person about the circumstances you interacted and be sure to remind him or her the information that got him to give you his business card in the first place. If you want to ask that person for something, don’t do it now. Ask him for an advice and meet up later. It’s the best follow up you can have.
However, beyond all the advice and tips that you might read online there is one thing and one thing only that will help improve your networking skills: Practice. Yes, this is the most important trick of them all. Go out there, attend as many events as you can and work on your event networking skills. You might not make it the first time, you might go horribly wrong the second time, but if you learn from your mistakes and continue being tenacious, you will definitely succeed. After all, “an ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching”.