Networking event – I’m sure you have, at some time in your life, been struck down with fear when these two words were uttered. I know I have.
I wasn’t a very confident person when I first started out in PR, but my first boss told me to ‘fake it until I made it’. I still sometimes think that I’m faking it, but according to friends (and the husband) I’m not, I’m now fully-fledged confident.
I went to a networking event at my university recently for graduates, and it got me thinking…are networking events worth it?
I’ve been to lots of different events where networking’s the main aim, and while it’s great to meet new people and make connections, it can be quite daunting if you’re not overly confident.
When I first started attending these types of events I would stand in the corner, fumble with my hands, looking at all the other people doing the same, until someone would come over and ask my name, what I did etc.
There is almost always going to be one person at a networking event who is too shy to come and say hi, and it was this realisation that made me swear to myself not to be that person anymore. And do you know what? It’s great!
I was a speaker at this year’s CASE Europe Annual Conference (it was awesome – check out the programme here), and having ‘speaker’ attached to my name badge seemed to attract people to come and talk to me. And when I started conversations with slightly nervous-looking people, it was one of the first things people asked about.
At the university graduate event that I went to, the first question everyone asked (including me) was what and when did you study here? See, the thing about networking events is they are easy if there is something in common for all the attendees to start networking around.
My university reunion was easy for even the most nervous as everyone there had something in common. And for the recent graduates who came, it was a great night to test their networking skills with potential employers (you’re more likely to hire someone if you’ve both been to the same university I think).
At the CASE event, it is mainly attended by those working at universities who want to learn from the sessions, the speakers and each other – so again, it’s easy to start conversations.
My tip for you if the thought of a networking event strikes fear in your heart – find one at your old university or college, or one that is purely for your industry. This will give you an easy way to boost your confidence in networking as you’ll have something in common with every single person in that room.
Pick your future networking events carefully so you maximise your time and the connections you can make. It’s true that speaking to as many people as possible will open up opportunities for you, but there are so many events out there that you need to pick the ones that you will get maximum benefit for your time. Make sure that when you do attend an event that you link/follow those you have met on LinkedIn or Twitter (or any other sites that you and they use professionally).
And remember that networking isn’t just at events, it’s walking down the street saying ‘good morning’, it’s talking to the other regular commuters on your train/bus, and it’s those people you see in the gym everyday…you never know where your next conversation will take you.