Reprinted from Forbes
Networking events are notorious for being awkward, anxiety-inducing affairs. At the same time, we know that networking is supremely important to our career success, and what better place to expand your network than at an event solely devoted to that purpose?
So to make these events a little less awkward, here are my top three tips:
- Wear pockets. There are fewer things more awkward than fishing for a business card in your purse or walking around with a fist full of other people’s business cards. So let me be your personal stylist for a second and advise you to wear something with pockets to keep your cards at the ready—and give you a place to store all the contacts you’ll receive in exchange.
- Keep one hand free. At most networking events, you’ll likely be offered plenty of food and drink options. But have you ever tried to awkwardly greet someone while balancing a plate of hors-d’oeuvres in one hand and a glass of wine in the other? My advice is to never eat and drink at the time so that you’re always ready to give someone a proper handshake.
- Go alone. I know what you’re thinking: “But Carrie, wouldn’t going to an event by myself just make me feel moreuncomfortable?” This advice may seem counterintuitive, but trust me. When you have the security blanket of a plus-one, you’re far less likely to mingle. But when you go to a networking event alone, you have no other choice but to force yourself to get over the awkwardness, meet someone new, and accomplish what you came there to do: network.
I love hearing how other people navigate networking events, so I asked a few women from my network for their best pieces of advice.
Here’s what they said:
4. Prepare your elevator pitch. “In less than 30 seconds you should be able to sum up who you are, what you do, and why people should be interested. Get your intro right, and you’ll be amazed where it can lead.” – Cecile Reinaud, founder and CEO, Seraphine
5. Know why you’re there. “Prepare yourself before walking into any networking event. Whatever the reason it is that I’m attending, I always remind myself what I’m doing there, whether it is to make a friend or foster an existing relationship. And I usually set myself up to aim to speak with at least three different people.” – Caryn Hsu, founder, HEMSMITH
6. Talk about something interesting or out of the ordinary. “Most people ask and answer the exact same questions, so they’ll appreciate a topic that’s a change of pace and will be more likely to remember you as well.” – Jane Fisher, co-founder of Harper Wilde
7. Arrive early. “The beginning of an event allows you to connect with a few other early arrivals and establish a conversational flow that other guests merge into. It takes more courage to break into conversations and groups of people chatting if you are the one with the late arrival.” – Marlies Verhoeven, co-Founder and CEO of The Cultivist
8. Introduce yourself to the event organizer. “They ought to have a great handle on who is at the event and will be able to point you in the direction of people it would be beneficial for you to meet—if you’re lucky, they may even make a few introductions for you!” – Cecile Reinaud
9. Smile. “It’s so easy to forget to smile at others in a world where our attention is always on our phones. I am always initially nervous to be in a room full of people I don’t know. A smile makes you seem confident and approachable.” – Gorjana Reidel, founder and creative director, gorjana