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How to Network like a Pro
So your company cares about your professional development and sends you to a conference, workshop or a training… Awesome! Listening to exciting presentations and case studies may teach you a lot, but there's also the invaluable benefit of networking. While some people find the networking part the most fun and can fully take advantage of this opportunity, less extroverted individuals can feel intimidated and might just want to get through the event with minimum interaction.
We've prepared a few simple tips on how to fully squeeze the potential of networking without having to be overly chatty or suffer through awkward silences.
1. Go Social
Events nowadays have a huge presence on social media: Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook or even Instagram. Use the conference hashtag, find your peers online, make connections and learn about the people you're going to meet. This way you'll feel much more confident face to face.
2. Prepare your pitch
Summing up a few points about what you and your company do is a great conversational starting point. Of course, don't brag too much – and prepare basic questions for your counterparts.
3. Starting a conversation
Joining a group of people might seem intimidating; relieve some of the awkwardness with informed, relevant conversation starters to get in the swing of things together. In case you're at a cross-industry event, research some of the topics and industry news of your peers.
4. Step out of your comfort zone,
and approach the people you admire or actually came for.
You have the unique opportunity to meet someone you respect for their thought leadership. Give them a chance to get to know you and find out about your skills and knowledge by having an interesting conversation. Make yourself visible and you'll open doors to unknown opportunities.
5. Battle the awkward silence
Our biggest enemy. Happens to the best of us. The key is to embrace your empathetic self and show interest in the other person. If they're worth your attention, I'm sure you have genuine interest in getting to know them better. Ask them what you're curious about.
6. Get what you came for
Whether those are business cards, phone numbers or the chance of a future business meeting, the key is flexibility and confidence. Stay diplomatic by stressing the mutual benefit of what you're requesting.
7. End the conversation at the right time
If you feel like it's time to move on, saying something like
“Let me know how your project goes, I'd love to know how that turns out” is a great conversation exit strategy. Or ask them, “Have you seen George from [company name] tonight? I’ve been meaning to chat with them.” Efficient and elegant.
8. Use to opportunities of event features
Top-level event organizers understand their attendees and know how to get them engaged.
Spicing things up with Roundtable discussions, Jam sessions, Q&As and interaction tools such as Sli.do will make the networking much more natural and fun. This is also great for those normally afraid to raise their hand.
9. Don't underestimate after event follow-ups
Remember the times you went to a summer camp, made tons of friends, exchanged addresses but your letter friendship just faded away or you never got back to them at all? This is the most common mistake of many event attendees. The connections are short lived, and people just forget and go back to their daily routine. In the business world, these represent many missed opportunities.
The next time you look for someone skilled to help you out with something, you might just message a friend you met at an event and solve the situation immediately.
Having great connections and good relationships is a great advantage which will make your professional life a lot easier.
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