Networking Is Fun. Here is how to do it.
by Kristen Francis
When I used to think of networking I’d think of business suits, dry conversations and looking forward to when I can take my shoes off, or, even worse, ‘I am not going to know anyone and I will probably make a dork of myself.’ Although I’m pretty good at making a dork of myself in public, I was wrong about the rest. It is totally normal to dress casual, crack jokes and even enjoy a beer (or two). If you are even more like me – broke – networking is a great excuse to get out of the house to do some socializing without feeling guilty about spending five bucks at a bar. It is the key to spreading awareness of your organization, finding future collaborators within the community, and it’s fun, so go out and do it!
For those of you who are new to the networking scene, here’s a list of tools to put in your pocket for when you are about to hit it off with your future connections:
1. Always wear a smile. The easiest way to get a stranger to approach you is by donning some pearly whites. No one wants to spark up a conversation with the person who looks like they are the least exciting in the room.
2. Have an elevator speech. Back in the day I was always told that you want to have about 20 seconds of who you are and what it is that you do, but thanks to all the fast paced stimuli of the 20th century, we get bored much quicker now. Keep the spiel to about 10 seconds or less. When you introduce yourself to someone new tell them your name, your organization and your mission statement or an associated tagline. Short and sweet.
3. Bring more than enough business cards. I have forgotten to replenish my stash of cards before attending events and needless to say I don’t have any strong contacts from any of those nights. People will say they will remember you; they will not. Have the cards to help jog the memory.
4. Do some research about the event before you get there. If there is a guest list, poke through it and find out who all is going and who they are affiliated with. You could make your organization’s biggest connection to date by doing a little planning ahead of time. Plus, you don’t want to arrive at an event that is asking for a canned food item at the door and show up empty handed.
5. Talk to the person/team hosting the event. Although the hosts are probably tired from planning the event and the last minute catering snafu, they put on the event for a reason – to make connections in the community. So go ahead and say hi, and make sure to say thanks for a great event.
6. Don’t be nervous about going alone. People do it all the time. Asking someone a question is the best way to get someone to talk to you. Ask things like: What organization are you affiliated with? How did you find out about the event? Are you familiar with so-and-so organization? Do you like sushi? And if you’re nervous to approach a crowd of people, an easy way to engage is to start talking with someone who just arrived to the event and has not yet joined a conversation. They will probably be happy you did.
Well, I hope that this helps you put your best foot forward in making the connections your organization needs. Just remember to have fun, keep the beer intake to two or less, and even if you don’t make any solid connections, there will be people in the community who will now know your organization exists. Happy networking!
Kristen is one of the founders of Media Action Network. Contact Kristen at Kristen@MediaActionNetwork.org.