Improve Your In-Person Networking Skills
We’re all the new girl at some point, and recently, I’ve been the new girl at in-person networking events. I never realized how few I’d been to, or how little I knew about the process. I decided the best thing to do was not to be afraid, but to keep attending and watching how others did it. I’ve also conducted some research and have found some great advice — including tips from Kickstart Kitchen’s Jules Taggart, who explains “How to Avoid Being ‘That Girl’ at a Networking Event.”
We’ve all heard of “that girl” at the party, but it’s different at a networking event. “That girl” is the girl who dominates everyone’s time, shoves her business card in each person’s face the second she meets them, and can’t stop talking about how she needs a job — and that’s just a few examples. Eek! But what if you’re new like me, and aren’t sure of the best ways to interact at a networking event? You don’t want to accidentally turn someone off by exhibiting signs of “that girl.” Here’s the best of the advice I’ve come across:
- Standing alone? Find the other person who’s alone. I usually attend networking events solo, so I’ve had my share of awkward moments in the corner. Usually, though, there are other people who’ve come alone. Approaching one person is a lot less intimidating than approaching an entire group, so reach out to that other person in the corner.
- Don’t kick off the conversation with business talk. I’ve heard this from a lot of expert networkers: Don’t immediately launch into what you do for a living. Taggart says to engage the person first, and ease into the business talk: “Focus on being interested rather than being interesting.” Kicking off the conversation can be as simple as just asking how the person is or what brought her out that night. If you’re at a women’s networking event, compliment someone on her outfit — a lot of my conversations seem to start that way.
- Exit the conversation gracefully. I’ve found this to be the hardest to do, since I’ve felt incredibly uncomfortable when someone comes up, talks to me for two minutes, passes a card, then runs off to the next person. I’m then back to standing alone and looking around, confused. I’ve realized that lot of people like to use networking events to meet as many people as they can as quickly as they can. Don’t take it personally, and look for the next person to talk to. When it’s time for you to leave a conversation, remember to do so politely, rather than racing off. Tell the person it was nice to meet them, and if you are interested in connecting with them, say you will be in touch again soon.
- Focus on meeting just a few people, rather than everyone. Taggart says you’ll get more out of an event if you walk in hoping to make just one connection: “Just find one person that you think you could meet for coffee because you enjoy their company.” It’s just like dating — you can’t expect to hit it off with everyone. You have to find that one special person who stands out to you.
Now that you have no fear of being “that girl,” head out to a few networking events and make some new connections. Check out the rest of Taggart’s tips here, and let us know if you have any other good tips for networking newbies or in-person networking.