How to Network Effectively: 9 Tips to Get The Most Out of Your Next Event
When you mention networking, you’re likely to get a mixed set of reactions. Some people are energised at the thought of a new social situation, whilst others are terrified at the prospect of being thrust into an unknown space and expected to start making friends.
Professional networking is a part of the majority of careers, but is an especially important part of the events industry. It’s also something that you’ll need to prepare for and master if you’re going to be attending events to represent your business, and many people don’t know where to start when it comes to preparing for a networking event.
In this article, we explain how to start networking, some of the key skills involved, the benefits and nine top networking tips so you can get the most out of your next opportunity.
In this article:
What is Networking?
Networking is a broad term that is generally used to describe the process of meeting and speaking to people in a professional capacity, sharing information and starting to establish a relationship. It is often done with the intention of some kind of business gain in the future, but networking can also just be used to get to know people that work in your industry.
Networking can happen online and in-person, and networking events are a popular format as everyone attending is there for a similar reason. You can network in a range of ways depending on what your goals are, from casual and social conversations to more formal meetings that involve pitching and strategic discussions.
How to Start Networking
Networking is an essential part of some people’s roles, whilst for others it’s a way to advance their careers and make a name for themselves in their industry sector.
Whatever your motivations, one of the best ways to start networking is by attending networking events. These can take place on different scales, from intimate and laid-back social gatherings to sessions at trade shows or conferences that are much more focused on business development.
You can find relevant networking events by subscribing to industry newsletters, following companies that organise events and just by searching on the internet and seeing what’s being advertised or talked about on websites like LinkedIn. It can also be worth asking colleagues or friends in the industry for recommendations of events they’ve enjoyed.
Additionally, you can start networking by connecting with people online. LinkedIn is the classic platform for this, but you can also use social media to network and even contact people by email if you feel confident and have questions or a proposal.
Looking for more MICE industry insights?
Keep up to date with the latest trends and expert insights from IBTM World.
What Are the Benefits of Networking?
One of the biggest benefits of networking is that it can generate leads and facilitate business connections that lead to sales. This is particularly beneficial if you’re the owner of a company or work in sales, where you’ll find that networking is a much more integral part of your role.
Networking can also be a huge help in your career, both in terms of progression and reputation. Networking can be a great way to make connections that later turn into job opportunities, but you can also build a name for yourself through networking which can help to establish you as a big and trusted figure (or brand name) in your sector.
Having relationships with other people in your industry can be a really useful resource when it comes to generating new ideas or getting useful insight on new projects or clients. Having multiple perspectives on a problem or creative brief often brings about far more innovative solutions, and in supporting others you’re likely to learn lessons that will benefit your business as well.
Building connections with other people in your industry through networking can also be a really useful place to gain general career advice and support. There might sometimes be instances in your career where you need job advice from someone outside of your organisation, and these connections can be ideal for that.
Finally, networking can be a fantastic way to build confidence in yourself and your abilities. It might seem daunting at first and it may take a while to get used to approaching and introducing yourself to people, but the self-belief and assurance you’ll gain will have a positive impact in all other areas of your life.
9 Tips for Networking
Planning on attending a networking event and looking for advice on how to get the most out of the experience? Here are our nine top tips for a productive and enjoyable event.
1. Research Attendees Beforehand
It might seem like unnecessary homework, but some people really benefit from reading up on who else is going to be attending an event beforehand. In some cases, you might be able to see a list of other attendees on the event’s page, or you’ll be able to search the event’s name on social media and see who else is posting about attending.
You can use this research in two different ways. Firstly, if there’s anyone on the guestlist that you already know, it’s worth reaching out to them beforehand to let them know you’ll also be in attendance. This gives you an easy strategy for one of the first people you can talk to when you arrive, which can help to get the event off to a strong start.
If you’re attending with more of a growth goal in mind, you can also use this research to make a list of people you want to talk to. You can then prep how you’re going to navigate these conversations, which will hopefully make them more productive.
2. Have a Goal in Mind
One of the most common pieces of advice for attending a networking event is that you should go with a goal in mind. This doesn’t have to be particularly ambitious - perhaps you just want to talk to five new people and connect with them on LinkedIn or social media after the event.
Alternatively, you might be attending the event because you have a partnership marketing plan you’re trying to pitch, or just want to generate several more leads to try and grow your customer base. Whatever the aim, having a goal gives you more purpose and holds you accountable to walk to people and get your point across, which can be really useful if you’re feeling unsure of what to do at an event.
3. Prepare Conversation Starters
There’s nothing worse than entering into a conversation and having your mind go blank. To avoid any social mishaps and also to feel more at ease when you’re introducing yourself, prepare several conversation starters before the event.
These don’t have to be particularly complex - asking someone who they are and what they do can be enough to spark several minutes of talking. Other ideas include asking if they’ve ever attended the event before, how they found out about the event, what they think about the latest industry news or development (where relevant) or even just asking them a question about themselves such as a favourite sport, hobby, social media platform etc.
4. Lead with Compliments
A great piece of advice when meeting new people in general is to lead with compliments. Being complimented puts people at ease and also makes them warm to you, so if you’re looking for an icebreaker consider paying a compliment on someone’s outfit, hair, accessory, the work their company has recently done, or even their choice of drink.
Of course, you want to come across as friendly instead of creepy or overly observant. If you’ve done some research on attendees beforehand you can offer personal compliments about work, achievements, or even a social media post that you enjoyed.
5. Ask Questions
A great way to keep a conversation going is to keep asking questions. People generally enjoy and feel more comfortable talking about themselves, so if you ask them questions you’ll help them to feel relaxed whilst also appearing interested and engaged, which lays a good foundation for a connection.
Asking someone what they do, who they work for and about their current projects is a good approach at a networking event as this can help to identify whether you have any professional similarities. From a business perspective, this can also be a useful approach when trying to identify potentially useful leads or partnership opportunities.
6. Apply Active Listening
Active listening is a kind of listening that involves listening to understand the other person instead of listening so you know what you’re going to say next. It’s hard to do without concentrating, but the idea is to make the other person feel heard by focusing on what they’re saying instead of how you’re going to reply, using your body language and verbal affirmations to communicate this.
7. Prioritise Connection
Approaching a networking event as an opportunity to make sales is one of the fastest ways that you can set yourself up for success. You need to prioritise making strong connections over securing leads, as these connections are much more likely to bear useful fruit over time.
If someone feels like you’re only talking to them to make a sale or gain something for yourself, they’re also less likely to warm to you and may gain a poor impression. This is definitely something to be avoided at a networking event, so leave your elevator pitch at the door and instead just open yourself to the opportunity of making lots of industry connections, some of which may lead to sales in the future.
8. Make Notes as a Reminder
Networking events can be incredibly overwhelming if you’re speaking to lots of people one after the other in a short space of time. A useful tactic is to try and make notes throughout the event about who you’ve talked to and what you’ve spoken about, or at least write yourself a summary at the end of the event that you can refer back to.
You don’t have to whip out a notebook and a pen - you could just jot down details and key pieces of information on your phone when you have a break in conversation. This saves you the hassle of desperately trying to remember names the next day or trying to scour LinkedIn when you can only remember someone’s first name.
9. Follow Up
The previous point also really benefits this last one - you need to follow up with the people you meet after a networking event. This doesn’t mean you have to send messages to everyone you met, but you should get in contact with anyone you spoke to for a while or felt like there was potential for a productive relationship.
Following up could just involve a follow on social media, or you could take the time to send a message. This is particularly important if you agreed that you’d talk again after the meeting or offered to share something - be reliable and punctual and people will want to work with you.
The best way to get the most out of a networking event is to ensure that you prepare beforehand. Not only can this help to calm any nerves you have about attending, but it will also ensure that you arrive with a clear set of aims in mind and conduct yourself with more purpose, which will not only help you to appear confident but also lead to much more success.
Enjoy this article? Make sure to share it!
View the latest tips, trends and insights from the IBTM World team.
Be in the know
Receive our latest news for free straight to your inbox.
Looking for something else?