Working in the corporate world, especially in a client service industry, the scary world of “networking” plays an important part in the advancement of my career, particularly as I continue to “proceed through the ranks” into roles more responsible for generation of new business. A couple of weeks ago, I received an opportunity to attend an event filled to the brim with professional women who work in my industry. The event took place at Neiman Marcus and proceeds supported the sponsoring organization’s charity of choice. And of course, I wore the outfit I share with you today.
I attend myriad events like this regularly to not only support the good work of the organizations and represent our company but also to meet other like-minded men and women in my community who may become mutually beneficial business relationships down the road. In short, I show up and “network.” For many, blind networking can be scary and intimidating. It’s certainly not easy, but I think it can be much easier than we may first view it to be. So I thought I would share a few of the tips I use to make the experience a bit easier and, hopefully, more fruitful long-term to business growth.
This may be a no brainer, but consider if you’ll likely be standing for much of the event (i.e. wear comfortable shoes). Also, be sure you know the nature of the event and the audience involved. Should you employ a conservative and sharp style? Can you add a bit of fun and flair if the occasion permits? (Don’t make the mistake I did when I showed up wearing this skirt and blouse at an event full of men in black suits. Please. Learn from my mistake!) And wear something that makes you feel great and maybe can even be a conversation starter (something interesting, but not so interesting it becomes odd or the topic of conversation for all the wrong reasons). Confidence and comfort with your style choices will surely make you more comfortable at the event in general.
Bring business cards and have them readily available (not buried and wrinkled at the bottom of your purse). Remember when I wrote about finding the perfect bag that I loved for so many reasons, including it’s perfectly placed business card pocket? Just consider the logistics of holding a drink, maybe an appetizer, shaking hands, and exchanging cards. It may not work fluidly, but how can you make it as easy as possible.
If you’re nervous about what to talk about, plan some discussion topics ahead of time. You can always start a conversation with “Hello, my name is…” and after receiving their response and providing your name, follow it up with “What do you do?” I know that sounds over simplified, but it’s really not.
And if you’re still wondering what to talk about, here are some ideas
- How did you hear about this organization and/or how did you get involved?
- Have you been to any of their events before?
- Do you work in the area?
It’s easier to be memorable to attendees and have something to talk about when you helped plan the event. So if you like an event, try to get involved. That opens up a whole host of other things to discuss with attendees, even as simple as “How do you like the event?”
Teaming up can make attending events much easier but don’t spend every moment with them. You can always use your friend to come back to occasionally or when you’re looking for a new conversation. But you won’t have had much success meeting new people if you spend every moment with someone you already know well.
Know that so many others are just as nervous to talk to “strangers” as you, so do them a favor and break the ice. What do you have to lose?
After the event, if you met a contact or two that might be a great connection, follow up to meet again for lunch, coffee, or the like to continue building the relationship. Just like any friendship or relationship, business connections take work and are built over a series of meetings and passage of time.
Do you have any great tips for making a success out of a networking or similar type of event? Please share!
Remix Options: I wore this dress for summer, with a really awesome braid, not long ago. And throwing a blazer over a dress always steps it up a notch like with this thrifted dress and red blazer or my beloved Tory Burch dress with the same red blazer.