Well-selected networking events can do wonders for your personal and professional growth. Spending several hours (or days!) surrounded by experts in the travel industry or another area you want to grow in can work incredibly well for your professional learning, upskilling, and inspiration.
Before I dive into the post – I will be at the TBEX Europe in Killarney, Ireland this October. If you’re going, please let me know! 🙂
I have (finally) started taking networking events seriously during 2015 and I’ve learned and implemented so much since. However, I was basically challenged to attend them on my own (I still do that, by the way). Seems horrifying, right? That’s why I’ve turned to the experts and did a bit of research in order to get the most out of it. I have put together the ‘musts’ – this has helped me a lot, and hopefully you’ll find it useful, too!
First things first: prepare the basics!
You obviously know what’s that upcoming event about. Regardless of the topic, you should familiarize yourself with the schedule, names of the announced speakers and the person/company that’s organizing the whole thing.
And because being put on the spot might make you nervous, don’t hesitate to write down important information and questions you’ll want to ask – and learn them ahead.
Also, define some information you want to share about yourself – don’t rely on the other person to carry the whole conversation!
PRO TIP: This is a crucial one, yet many forget it. Sadly, myself included (sometimes). Always have a power bank with you to keep your phone going throughout the day – ideally the one that can allow multiple full charges so you’ll never have to worry!
“Are you alone?”
Yes, you might get asked this question, and probably more than once. People that arrive alone are usually easily noticeable, but don’t take this as a flaw! It’s a great conversation starter (unless you decide to go for absolute and awkward silence), and if someone approaches you with that question, it is very likely that they actually want to talk to you. So talk – and ask questions.
Also, don’t forget that you can be the one to approach a person and ask them the same question. You might get all kinds of reactions. If a person is obviously trying to avoid or end the conversation, let them have it and move on. If it’s the opposite, ask them questions and answer theirs!
Ask the right questions
Okay, so regarding the previous point, you might say “But once I approach or am approached, what happens next?”.
There is a person in front of you and unless they are a celebrity/social media famous/something else that makes them recognizable, you know nothing about each other. So start off with: what brings you here today? And/or, where else do you network?
Then, once you know what brought them there to begin with, you can ask them about their business, their connections with the event, what is happening in their industry, and so on. Don’t ask questions just for the sake of keeping the conversation alive – ask genuine, thoughtful questions you really want to know the answers to.
This might seem like a ridiculous one, but here it goes: people are attracted to positive people. No one ever saw a frowning person entering a room and said, ‘Hey, I want to be friends with him/her!’.
This is an easy thing to do, so don’t mess it up: keep your head up, shoulders straight, and smile. Believe me; people will approach you!
Time to connect
Okay, so we have you talking and asking great questions. Is this the conversation that will grow into a connection? Do you think you want to stay in touch with this person? Could you work together, learn from each other or even just hang out on a next networking event?
If you want to talk to this person again – ask for their business card and offer your own, genuinely telling them why you want to keep in touch. If necessary, after the event is over, write down a few notes on each business card you get. This will hep you remember what you’ve talked about with that person – it will make your follow-up more meaningful.
p.s. I know this might be the point where you say – but I don’t have a business card! That’s absolutely fine, but do consider getting it. Your name and title, contact details, LinkedIn and Twitter handles and your blog URL are essential to let people know who you are and how they can reach you. I had my business cards done at Vistaprint.
Don’t be a card spammer
Handing out your business card to absolutely everyone you’ve spoken at all – without building rapport and having a thoughtful conversation with them – will, eventually, cost you your business cards, without gaining anything from it.
Because let’s face it – if there was someone you only spoke with for a minute, and they offered you their card to keep in touch even though you knew nothing about them, you wouldn’t even consider reaching out to them afterward. So don’t make that mistake yourself.
This is obviously important: after all, you’re networking to achieve – and maintain – good quality connections.
So after you’ve gathered all the business cards, took some notes on the conversations that happened, and had a good night’s sleep, reach out to those people through email up to 24-48 hours after the event. Sum up your thoughts and tell them why it would be great to stay in touch. And even if you don’t see them as an immediate connection, just say thanks.
Even better, if there is someone from your existing network that your new contact should know based on their interests, introduce them to each other! You will be remembered as the person who made the introduction, and you should try to do this after every networking event.
Also, if applicable, connect on relevant social networks – I found Twitter and LinkedIn to be working great for such purposes!
Remember – you are attending a certain event because you want to learn something and you want to meet people who have that same interest. I hope it’s an area you truly love and enjoy talking about, learning about and being surrounded with. So relax and don’t forget to have some great fun while gaining valuable knowledge and connections!
If you have any other tips for beginner-level networking, let me know 🙂
*Some of the links I shared in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through these links I get a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use myself and firmly believe in.
As I already mentioned, a great way in which I’ve found a lot of networking events to attend is Eventbrite.
Sources used in this post are Forbes (An Introvert’s Guide to Networking and 17 Tips To Survive Your Next Networking Event), Evolve (A Few Words On Business Networking and How To Follow Up After A Business Networking Event) and Hubspot.