So you’re getting into networking, and it’s a little weird. You’re nervous. I get it. We’ve all been there, and it’s natural.
Young Professional’s events are without a doubt the best place to begin your networking experience. Networking is a life skill, no matter your profession. Play with it. Have fun!
I’ve been directly involved with leadership in the Young Professional’s scene for about four years now. I’ve watched the orchestration of event after event, month after month. One of the things I enjoy most about YP events is watching the room. Seeing the variations in flow and conversations. Watching people genuinely enjoy others. Even watching awkward moments play out. YP events are different than other “Networking” events, I know this because I’m told so on a regular basis, and I completely agree.
Mainly it has to do with a young & vibrant energy in the room. People like it. It’s real.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this energy that people like. The energy they come back for. The energy they talk about & tell their friends or co-workers. The kind that makes the YP events FUN. One of the biggest factors to this energy is the dynamic of the attendees. It’s incredibly diversified every time. Doctors, Bankers, Engineers, Lawyers, Nutritionists, Gardeners, Marketers, Insurance, Real Estate Agents, Software Engineers, Designers, Florists, Graphic Artists, Illustrators…. You name it. I’ve met some totally unexpected and interesting professionals, in really neat industries.
Out of this sometimes crazy diversity the room is usually something like this: one third first timers, one third occasional networkers and one third regular networkers. The regulars are great at helping you warm up to networking, it will be easier to talk to them the second and third time and so on.
It’s the first third I find interesting; the excited and nervous first timers.
These are people who have never attended a networking event before, it’s literally their first time. How can every event have one third of it’s attendance as first timers month after month? “Where do they come from?” I’ve often wondered.
A lot of them won’t come back. It creates this void and somehow it’s always filled by a whole new group of first timers.
I think I know why some people don’t come back; they didn’t enjoy their experience. Some just aren’t cut out for it, but I believe most of these un-enjoyable experiences could be avoided.
Here are five simple tips to make your first networking event a hit, sending you back for more.
- Just be yourself… no, seriously! Be real. People will love you for it. If you put Fake out you’ll get fake back. Don’t be fake.
- It’s totally ok to tell people it’s your first networking event. I guarantee you 3 out of 10 people will say “Me too!” and 3 out of 10 people will be pros and welcome you with open arms. Being humble is an admirable quality and the seasoned networkers can’t help but take you under their wing. They’ll lead a great conversation with you, make it easy, and then likely facilitate an introduction to someone else they know.
- Be the curious one. You’re afraid to talk and sound silly? Intimidated by having you elevator pitch sound right? Ask questions. This is one thing MOST people pick up naturally. But don’t stop at “what do you do?” dig a little deeper. Then switch gears and ask them why they come out to networking events. How long they’ve been doing it. What they like most about their job. Switch gears again and ask them non-work related questions like what they like to do for fun. Where they like to eat. What they’re doing this weekend. People don’t always open up right away. It’s amazing where conversation can lead you, and the commonalities you’ll find if you give it some time.
- Quality is better than Quantity. Quality is better than Quantity. Yes, I said it twice, because it’s important. There may be one hundred people in the room, and if you only connected with five in two hours, that’s ok. Some people think they need to connect with as many people as possible. How can you establish a good connection in just a quick moment with each person? If you’re finding a great conversation with someone keep it going! If you click that’s great. That is exactly the person you’re looking for. ENGAGE with them!
- A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E. I’ve saved this one for last. This goes for just about anything in life. Attitude is everything. If you can figure this one out and live by it your life will be fulfilling, I promise you this. If you go into the networking event with a good attitude you’ll come out happy. Don’t set expectations. Don’t worry about anything. Just go and enjoy this opportunity and this exciting time to meet some really neat people. Some you’ll never see again, some will become clients, and some will even become good friends.
Chairman of the Kitchener-Waterloo Young Professionals
YPNO Director of YPN Development