I recently attended a networking event that was targeted towards Buffalo technology professionals. The event was held by InfoTech Niagara. If you haven’t heard of them before, you should check them out. They hold multiple networking events and seminars throughout the year.
I went to this event with my fiance and worried that I would fall into the familiar trap of hanging with the people that you already know, e.g staying inside the comfort zone.
There are many things that go into making a successful connection through a networking event.
1. Make the first move.
It is always easier to start talking to people after the first connection. Be brave, go up to someone you don’t know! Always go into an event with the mindset that everyone is uncomfortable (at first) and everyone is there to do the same thing you are – to network, meet new people, and to grow their connections. I have often told my fiance that I want to try speed dating just once so I can see how good or bad of a first impression I make. Events like these are all about your first impression. If you sulk in the corner on your phone because you don’t know anyone, no one will want to meet you. Get out of your comfort zone and be the first to say “hello” to someone.
2. Have a purpose – but keep an open mind
My goal was to get at least 10 business cards, do some business development, and meet potential candidates and clients. That does not mean you stop at that goal or ignore people who do not meet your initial purpose. Meet as many people as you can – you never know where the connection will lead or how you may be able to help each other in the future. Worst case, you make a new friend!
3. Become a connector
As you meet people, keep their needs in mind. If you can introduce them to someone else at the event they will remember you as the connection point – and value that! Plus, it always feels good to help people out.
4. Always follow up!!
This is the most important. The networking event is a waste of time if you do not follow up with the people you spoke with. After each event, I send out LinkedIn connections, make phone calls and find people on Twitter. At this particular event, one phone call was very valuable as the person I met at the event became a leading candidate on a position we had been trying to fill.
If you have some good (or bad!) networking stories, or know of any great events, we would love to hear about them in the comments!