Networking events can be inspiring places bursting with opportunity. They can also be intimidating and nerve-inducing . But they don’t have to be – here are some simple tips to help you enjoy the experience, not just survive it
Networking events can be daunting. There are the usual stresses that come with meeting new people, particularly ones you want to impress, but the pressure of networking comes with its own nerves. As we get told time and time again it’s not always what you know it’s who you know – and this is particularly important for creatives.
Here are some things to remember to ensure that you not only leave a good impression on people, but also give yourself a chance to enjoy these opportunities – after all they’re a great way to meet people, including potential friends and collaborators.
- Be the person you’d like to meet at these events
It can be incredibly stressful to build up the confidence to make the first move, but that person you want to talk to, may feel exactly the same. Just think of the type of person you’d like to meet in these situations: approachable and friendly. These are life-skill that go way beyond networking events, but they are the perfect place to practice. It can be scary, but what do you really have to lose if you go introduce yourself, give someone a compliment, or ask them a question.
- Be engaged
This is a major part of being friendly and approachable – being present. Ask questions, get really involved in conversations, listen to what people have to say. The loudest person in the room, or the best dressed may capture the most attention on the night, but when it comes down to it people are more drawn to (and more likely to want to see more of) the people they enjoyed speaking to – the ones that made them laugh, or asked them about their work.
- Be prepared
Sometimes networking events can be a relaxed place to meet like-minded people, and sometimes they can be filled with important industry figures who could help you move forward personally or professionally. These people want to know more about you than your small-talk skills. Don’t be intimidated, its not an interview, but it is a chance for you to come across as confident and talk about your interests and goals – what are you really looking for?
- Talk to as many people as you can
This is can be tricky. How do you round up a conversation and move on to another without seeming like you’re on some professional speed-dating circuit? Join other people into the conversation – you’ve just met someone and then you spot someone else you’d like to talk to, what’s the harm in inviting your new friend along? Or just be polite and say you want to quickly say hello to someone you’ve just seen. Everyone knows how these events work and will understand that you want to meet people.
- Don’t put too much pressure yourself
Some people walk away from networking events having secured a serious opportunity. Others walk away with new friends and ideas. Some don’t get either – and that is ok. Don’t feel deflated. These experiences are never wasted. So you didn’t meet your future boss, but you did manage to talk to new people; perhaps one of them gave you an interesting tip, or made you rethink your project, or encouraged you to play around with your CV again.
Why don’t you join Debut at our summer mixer on 18 August and put your new networking skills into practice…
Words by Gurnesha Bola