Being More Successful at Networking                                                                

 K. Fuechsel               6/15/2020

Illustration: Erin Brown

Do you enter a room full of people at a networking event and wonder how in the world do you navigate the room and start a conversation with complete strangers?

First, after you have walked in, look around to find any familiar faces.  If at first you don’t see any, take a stroll through the room to find a place to start.  You may need to “rip the bandage off quickly” and strike up a conversation with someone while nibbling from the buffet or scoping out the raffle items.  Perhaps you can ask what line of work they’re in or compliment someone on a piece of jewelry or an outfit.   Of course, if you introduce yourself, it usually opens the door for others to do the same.  Maybe, they’re feeling just a shy as you are.  Once you’ve broken the ice with one person, you’ll gain the confidence to approach others and initiate more conversations.

Some ways to enhance the “Networking” experience is to know who you are and what kinds of events might work best for you.  Focus on some important bullet points……where is the networking meeting? What type of attendees will be there? And how often do they meet? Can I afford this event?  Some groups are more serious about networking and along with a fee to cover munchies, they may require a specific number of leads to be presented by each member at each meeting.

Some groups are a little more casual and provide services to the community during their meetings.  It’s through each meeting that a member’s personality and knowledge about his occupation come through.  This is crucial for you to remember in connecting members to leads which are often friends or colleagues of yours.  A group member or a lead may have strong personalities or habits that may be annoying or offensive to some.  You may want to keep this in mind when orchestrating a connection.

If you don’t have the time or resources to attend weekly meetings, online networking may be perfect for you.  Joining online networking groups is a great way to quickly reach out to a targeted group of people or privately research their online profile.  Some women who may struggle with self-promotion may find online networking to be more comfortable.  For some women, especially Moms, cultivating relationships can be hard and the ability to reach out when you have time around caring for your family, may just be the best networking environment.

Remember, once you’ve started the conversation, be sure to continue the conversation by staying in touch. An email to contacts that you’ve met through networking or sending samples of your work can achieve this or just by sending a good old-fashioned Thank You note to new contacts thanking them for their time at a recent event may just be the thing that seals the deal.

Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, is the first place to start.  Once you’ve achieved this, approaching strangers at networking events will become easier – even fun. You’ll be excited to meet new people who will help you get connected to those who want your product or service.  Walk in with confidence, smile and go work the room!

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