If you’re a networking veteran, you’ll know that a lot of it is done in groups at larger networking events. If you’re not, keep in mind that this is something that you should prepare for before you put yourself out there.
Networking events can be tough. There’s a lot of faces, voices, and skill sets to compete with for air time. I attend numerous networking events every year, and from all of my experiences I can tell you exactly what you need to do if you want to stand out and make a lasting impression in a group situation.
Let’s get to it!
1. Look engaged.
Engagement goes beyond talking a lot. It means paying attention, keeping tabs of your body language and posture, and doing simple techniques that will make people around you feel more comfortable: smile, make eye contact, and nod. Sounds easy, right? Right! When you’re at a networking event and in a large group, you can’t talk the whole time. So, even if you’re silent, remember that people will keep taking note of your posture. If you’re slumped and you look tired, they’re going to be less likely to listen to you when you do speak up.
2. Include others
Standing out at a networking event doesn’t mean dominating the conversation and talking the most. The best networker is the one who can be the bigger person and facilitate a discussion that involves as many people as possible. You should absolutely step in when you have something meaningful to say, but know that it’s also an option to hang back and let others have their turn.
3. Ask relevant questions.
General networking questions are not always applicable to group situations. When you’re in a group, you want to ask questions that will be relevant to the entire group. Instead of asking a single person about their career, ask everyone about an industry trend that they may be able to comment on. People like being asked to provide their expertise, and it will make them feel more welcome and comfortable.
4. Prepare an impactful goodbye.
So, let’s say you’ve just had a great networking event. You’ve been an excellent networker who has involved the rest of the group and facilitated a great discussion, but now you have to leave. If there was someone in one of your groups that you want to connect with further, take the time to seek them out to say a personal good-bye. When you find them, say that you enjoyed meeting them include a tidbit about yourself that will make them remember you. For example:
“Hi again, ____! I have to leave so I thought I’d come say goodbye. I enjoyed meeting you and hearing about your views on/experiences in _____. I’m currently finishing my business degree at the Ivey Business School and I hope to enter your industry in the future, so thank you for your advice!”
5. Take advantage of the space on your business cards.
When you hand out your business card to a certain person, take the time to write 1-3 short bullet points on the back that will help trigger their memory about you. They’ve likely met many other people in addition to you, so it’s important that you differentiate yourself. You could include tidbits about what you two talked about, or you could take a more personal approach: “I’m the guy whose red tie you commented on!” works just fine.
What challenges have you faced while at networking events? Tell me about them in the comment section!