1. Know Before You Go
Find out as much as you can about the group and/or individual attendees before the event. Get an idea of the skill and experience level that will be in the room, and search for commonalities between you and them.
If the event shows RSVPs (for example, a Facebook Event Page,) use the Going/Interested list to see individuals and identify people you plan on approaching.
If the event doesn’t have a public event page, you can do quick on-the-spot research by using the LinkedIn Find Nearby Feature.
2. Eat Before you Meet
Before setting out to approaching tables and groups of people, grab your food and drink. That way, you have something to appropriately occupy yourself with while you wait for your “in” to conversations.
When approaching a group, most of the time, someone will see you and invite you into the conversation. If that doesn’t happen, it is okay (and normal!) to stand and listen to the conversation until there is a topic or comment you can contribute to. When you make your conversational entrance, remember to briefly introduce yourself to and make contact with the entire group.
3. Save the Solos
You see that other person standing by themselves? They are likely feeling the same way as you. Go be their hero!
Approaching an unoccupied person and starting a brand new conversation is many times easier than interrupting an existing one.
4. Make a Mutual Exit
One of the most human and ambiguous parts of working the room is knowing when to exit a conversation.
Don’t forget to pay attention to and acknowledge other’s signals that they are ready to move on. Signs that your conversation is nearing its end include: lack of eye contact, others scanning the room, one-word or shortened replies, and physically pivoting to face the rest of the room instead of the speaker. If your tablemate is sharing these ques, make a mutual exit before they are forced to make an emergency exit.
It’s better to end a conversation a little early than overstaying your welcome. By ending the conversation on a peak, you leave your new connection wanting more, and you have a valuable topic to continue the conversation with during follow-up.
When exiting, thank your tablemate for their time and share that you’d like to stay in contact. In a professional setting, ask for their business card or request to connect on LinkedIn. In a social setting, it is appropriate to either ask for their email, ask the best way to reach them, or pull out your phone and connect on LinkedIn on-site. In both cases, before jumping to your next table or connection, take a moment to write a short note down about the person, what you talked about, or a question you have for them (this will save you when it comes time to follow-up!)
5. Do Something About It
All of your time and efforts to make a great impression at an event are for nothing if you don’t take the next step.
After the event, it’s your turn to level-up the new relationship via follow-up. Email or LinkedIn message your new connection with a thank you and refer back to something specific you discussed or you would like to learn more about. When they accept your connection or reply to your email, it’s time to set up a call, coffee, or next event to meet at.
P.S. Some networking doesn’t feel like networking at all.
Networking is just a fancy word for relationships.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing you’re only networking when you’re in a hotel ballroom or sitting at a conference table.
Here are 5 situations that can impact your network, minus business cards and blazers.
1. The Dinner Table
That’s nice, you’re interested in working in app development? Uncle Fred’s co-worker’s son just started working for that hip rideshare company, Lyft up in the Bay Area. Maybe you should talk!
2. Speaker Events
You’re passionate about women in leadership? I’m so happy we ran into each other at the Women’s Leadership Forum. I’m looking for more purpose-driven people to join my company’s HR team, which is ranked one of the best places for women to work.
3. Getting a Cup of Coffee
I just wanted to catch up with you since you relocated to Los Angeles, but now that I hear you recently joined this new professional organization, we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other. Thanks for the invitation!
4. Reunions and Social Get-Togethers
It’s true, you never know who you’ll meet, or who will be so important to reconnect with. I never thought that running into Mark – he graduated the year after me and I sat behind him in English – at the Alumni Mimosa Brunch would lead to my next interview! I’m so glad I asked what he’s doing for work now.
I’ve been emailing Rosa for the last year, but until we met in person at Jeff’s retirement party, neither of us could put the face to the name. Having a personal connection with a colleague in another department will really help me to get my job done, not to mention make it more pleasant!
This article’s expert content was contributed by Janelle Farkas ’15, M.A.
Janelle is a Career Educator at Chapman’s Office of Career and Professional Development