A survival guide for networking events
For whatever sins we committed (probably global warming) we’ve all been subjected to networking events. As a professional in the business world, they’re just something you have to endure. You may get lucky and attend these events with a group of colleagues, but realistically, you’re on your own because budgets and sign off rarely let five people attend the same event.
So, if you find yourself hurled into a networking event and riding solo, consider us your Robin, your Samwise Gamgee and your Avengers. In other words, here’s a guide to get you through it and 10 tips on how to survive:
1.Look for the other awkward person
The truth is that everyone feels awkward and if you see someone hovering about the food table, standing alone, looking uncomfortable or scrolling on their phone because they’re not sure what else to do, then go and talk to them. You’re both feeling as awkward as each other and you can buddy up.
2.Don’t drink the coffee
We repeat, DO NOT drink the coffee. It always tastes like dishwater that’s been left in the sun for approximately 243 days before being filtered through, what tastes like, a garden hose. This is not how you want to start your day and it will put you in a terrible mood. Grab a coffee from your favourite bougie barista on the way to the event and save yourself the heartache.
If you’ve found someone to chat to, or you’ve formed a group of you all chatting and laughing thinking, ‘yes we’ve totally conquered this’, don’t exclude anyone who might want to join your group. If someone is alone and slides up to you, be the first to step back and open the circle. Also resist the temptation to whip out your phone and scroll. That can exclude people from approaching you and starting a conversation.
4.Know where the exit points are
When you arrive do a quick scan and find your exit points. That might be the toilet, the food table or maybe even a spare room. If you get stuck in a terrible conversation, or are just feeling overwhelmed and need a minute, you’re going to need valid excuses and a quick route out.
5.Take some chewing gum with you
We don’t need to explain this point. You know what we’re talking about and you never want to be that person. Especially if desperation drove you to drink the coffee.
6.Don’t drink all the alcohol
We know we know, sometimes it’s the best bit about these events. However, no one likes a sloppy drunk at their networking event and that’s not why you want people to remember you. You can drink as much as you like later with your friends, but limit your booze now, stay sharp, stay alert. Constant vigilance is necessary at all times. This is war my friends and no-one has ever won a war drunk. (At least we don’t think they have, but we cannot fully speak for Churchill).
7.Make them feel special
When you’re talking to someone the goal is to make them feel special, adored and noticed. This means listen more than you talk. Ask questions. Be interested. Don’t keep checking your phone at the same time. Stay present. The basic psychology of humans essentially means we all love to talk about ourselves. It does wonderful things for our ego. It also means that person remembers you and thinks you’re great. When you take an interest in someone, they tend to think you’re a great conversationalist and a wonderful person. (This tip can also be applied to first dates. You’re welcome).
It’s all very well trying to be professional and not get drunk, but don’t forget to bring your whole self to this event. Chat the way you normally would. Don’t try to be what you think they want. Let your personality come out. No one remembers boring people anyway.
9.Research the guests
Take a look at the attendee list before you get there and do a bit of research on the people that look interesting. You might be drawn to their job title or company. Find out what their business does and what they’re up to. Connecting with attendees on LinkedIn before the event and arranging to meet up is also a great way of ensuring you have someone to talk to when you arrive.
10.Have some lines ready
These might be ‘get out of jail’ lines or ‘join the conversation’ lines. Below are some examples to put in your arsenal, just in case.
•‘God the coffee is awful isn’t it. What do you think they did to it?’
•‘Hey do you mind if I join you guys, you look like you’re having an interesting conversation’
•‘I’m never sure what’s the appropriate way to start a conversation out of thin air, but hi’
•‘Do you think these events are awkward for everyone and actually we’re all in the same boat?’
•‘Do you fancy standing awkwardly together?’
•‘Hey, how you finding the event so far?’
•‘That’s really interesting. I hope I get to catch up some more with you, but for now if you’ll excuse me, I just need to make a quick call’
•‘No way, how funny. Listen I’ll catch up with you shortly, I’m just going to say hello to a few people I need to introduce myself to’
•‘Great talking to you. I’m going to grab some food but chat shortly’
Remember, everyone feels awkward at some point and everything starts with a conversation. YOU’VE. GOT. THIS. We all believe in you. Just don’t drink the coffee.