Networking can be fun as you get to meet new people or it can really make your stomach churn. We all need to network, not just in the work space but also in other social settings. It could be a friend’s wedding or a new baby group. Throughout my career whether in the media or corporate worlds, networking has played an important part in my different roles. Being on maternity leave and moving to new areas has also forced me to brush up on my networking skills. It isn’t just about networking at big events but also about how you make contacts and build links with peeps on a everyday basis. In June, I set myself a challenge of going to the BritMums bloggers’ conference Friday night drinks on my own, not knowing anyone (yikes). Here are 7 top tips I thought about before my networking adventure…
- No one is a born networker…Well, thinking about it, as soon as my girls could crawl they would happily travel around the room at play groups and smile at other babies and mums to say hello in their own little way. I wonder if they will be that confident when they’re older! Networking is a skill but you don’t need to be a huge expert to be able to make connections with people. It’s not something everyone necessarily loves doing so remember they could be feeling the same as you. From time to time we need to remind ourselves about why people will be interested in talking to us or maybe you need some confidence energisers.
- Research your event…Do you know who else is going or anyone you may recognise? Not all events would publish attendee lists beforehand. Can you find out a little more about the potential attendees via Google or even better LinkedIn? More importantly, what’s the purpose of the event and is networking optional if you want to escape as soon as the talk has finished! With the BritMums conference, I messaged a few people I didn’t know (and sent some emails) to check if they would be free to chat at some point during the conference. Luckily a couple of people responded to my messages and we met up on the day. One explained she wouldn’t be able to as it would be a busy day for her (which was cool). Check out the agenda for the event. How long are the breaks where you’ll be in that networking space? Or maybe it’s an event where you’ll be sitting down so that’s easier to introduce yourself to people sitting on either side of you (they would be rude to ignore you!)
- Remember that not everyone knows everyone..When you walk into a room, it may feel like everyone already is part of their own gang! Spot small groups of people and people who look approachable in your eyes. Then walk up and say hello. Listen for a bit so you know how to join in their conversation. Name badges mean you have an immediate conversation starter, whether it’s the company they work for, their job title or the blog they write for.
- Showing an interest in others…This may sound like common sense but it can easily be forgotten if you’re feeling a bit nervous or eager to plug your own business. Most people enjoy talking about themselves so maybe prep yourself with a few questions to ask peeps. You can ask the usual ones like ” which company do you work at” or ” how long have you been doing X?” but more open questions like “what do you really enjoy about working for X company” or “anything exciting you’re working on next?” can help to trigger more of an interesting chat. You can also pick up on details about somebody if you think they’re happy to chat about them. For instance, have they already mentioned some of their interests. At blogger conferences, it can be easy to talk about their blog. Remember to be prepared to talk a little about yourself to kick off a conversation or join in an discussion. It was nice I could also chat about the family food brand Nom Noms who sponsored me for BritMums.
- Moving around the room…Don’t be afraid to move away from one group of people if there are others you would like to talk to (or you may just want a change of company). You can excuse yourself politely whether it’s time for you to grab another drink or be honest that you also hoped to catch up with someone else before you have to head off.
- Here’s my card… Is it an event where you want people to get in touch with you afterwards? For us bloggers, business cards and Twitter handles are nice reminders of people you met throughout the busy conference. Don’t be shy about handing out your business cards, that’s what they’re there for. Make sure you give out your cards to people you really want to stay in touch with. Oh and don’t forget to follow up with a “hello, it was nice to catch up with you at….” message or email.
- Go with your own definition of what successful networking means to you...What do you want to get out of this event and any networking opportunities? This doesn’t have to mean coming home with fifty business cards. It could be about making one or two good connections which will help your career, business, hobby or blog. It’s also about connecting with people who you will enjoy keeping in touch with so it won’t feel like a chore. Also, you may not be expected to network at an event that much, it may be down to you how much you get involved. I know some bloggers at BritMums Live who were very happy mooching about on their own, whereas others wanted to chat to lots of other bloggers.
For any new bloggers or bloggers who have bee hesitating about going to a bloggers’ conference, just book your ticket! You won’t regret it. You’ll be in a space with loads of friendly people with one blog thing in common. Yes, bloggers may have their own little groups of pals but it doesn’t mean they don’t love chatting to new people. One of the next major bloggers’ conference in London is BlogFest run by Mumsnet, on Saturday 12 November 2016, Kings Place, Kings Cross. Hope to see you there…
So, what are your top tips for networking, especially if chatting to peeps you don’t know isn’t your cup of tea? What do you dread about networking? Leave a comment and network via Lucky Things…;)