You walk into a happy hour networking event armed with business cards, now what? Networking events are similar to sorority recruitment, speaking with people you do not know gets easier with practice. When I first moved to Nashville, I did not know anyone. I attended networking events a few nights a week to make connections and friends, there were several times these connections came in handy.
Here are a few tips to help you succeed:
1. At first it may be awkward, but have a few go to topics if the conversation is not flowing. I suggest bringing up new construction going up in your city “Are we really putting in a new condo building on 12th?”, discussing the location the networking event is at “Have you ever eaten here, what is good?”, or asking for advice “As a recruiter, do I really need this on my resume?”.
2. Watch the news before coming to a networking event, you never know if a big executive will ask you about a recent news story.
3. Practice your “elevator pitch” just as a start up would have a 10 second pitch you should have one as a personal brand. Make sure this is not too practiced, just have a few bullet points ready.
4. Everyone likes to be complimented. I once found myself in a 30 minute conversation with the Speaker of the House for Tennessee, because I complimented her Tory Burch shoes.
5. If you find yourself in an awkward situation or speaking with a competitor who is asking too many questions about your company, excuse yourself with a phone call.
6. No need to sweat it, remember everyone is attending the event for the same reason, everyone is nervous. Break the ice and let your personality shine.
7. Anywhere can turn into a networking event, not just organized ones. Make sure you always look presentable even when grocery shopping. You never know who you will run into. This does not mean you need to wear a suit all the time, but make sure you put some effort into your appearance.
After the event do not forgot to send out emails to the people you met. Remind them where you met and ask any follow up questions. If you really hit it off, ask to meet for lunch or drinks. Do not forget the power of LinkedIn, add your connections to your network, my best friend and I actually met on LinkedIn.