In general, many people who know me would likely say that I can hold my own at a networking event, That being said, I do find that it can take me a while to settle in and get comfortable, especially in a new group. Believe it or not I have even left events early when I felt like I wasn’t able to actually connect well with those present. Networking is incredibly valuable both personally and professionally but is absolutely a skill which needs to be practiced and exercised in order to maintain.
I've create a quick list below of some tricks and tips I've gotten over the years to help develop my own networking skills. I would recommend these tips but you also need to figure out what works and doesn't work for you.
Since we have a couple of networking nights up and coming, I thought I would share a few of my own (unqualified) tips and tricks to succesfull networking
Set a goal! It’s easy to walk into a room full of people and feel totally overwhelmed. I often get it into my head when attending networking nights that I need to meet everyone and be charming and delightful and have the whole room love me. But that, quite obviously, is incredibly unrealistic. First, if you have too many conversations, you’ll have to cut many of them short. So I generally try and set myself a completely attainable goal. This may mean you have one person specifically that you want to connect with, or perhaps you just want to meet 1 or 2 new people. If you set a goal, it makes it much easier to get started.
Research in advance! If you have the time, I find it valuable to do a little background research before attending an event. Who will be there? What are some things everyone attending the event might have in common. It may even be valuable to reach out to the organizer to find out some additional information that may help you prepare. It’s always good to have some key anecdote, etc, to share when meeting new people but its even more valuable if they are relevant to the conversations you will already be having. It can also help boost your own confidence to have some background knowledge on the group.
Ask questions! Most people think that networking is exclusively selling yourself. But learning about other people’s experiences is perhaps more important. By hearing about other’s paths and by asking questions to draw other out, you’ll find you become someone that others want to talk to. You will also find that others are more comfortable talking about themselves and then return the favour. I always try to ask what I would call a reciprocal questions. This would be a good icebreaker of sorts. It gives your co-conversationalist the opportunity to tell their story and also gives them an easy prompt to ask the same questions in return.
Ask follow-up questions! This one always seems like a given but I'm constantly shocked by how few people ask a follow-up. Often times when you meet someone at a networking event you’ll ask some pretty basic introductory questions. A good way to get people talking is to ask an emotional follow up questions - or something that is less quantitative and more qualitative. This is also a good opportunity to share an experience you’ve had and ask about how that might relate to the other person.
Avoid sitting down! This one may not always be applicable but can be quite useful. When you sit down you are automatically less approachable to others. At best you seem shy and at worst you seem lazy and/or disinterested. By sitting down, you are creating a physical barrier between yourself and your co-networkers and may turn people off from reaching out to you.
Do you have any great networking tips? If so we'd love to hear from you!
If you’re looking for an opportunity to try some of these out, AWN does have two upcoming events!
Women in Agriculture Luncheon
Jean Szkotnicki - President of the Canadian Animal Health Insitute
Krista Hulshof - Owner of VELD Architect
Wednesday September 20th, 2017
IPM and Rural Expo, Walton ON
11:30am - 2:00pm
Free but RSVP Required
An Evening of Cooks, Corks and Cultivation
Ag Women's Network is being hosted for a 3 course meal as well as hearing from Sue-Ann herself about her career journey and accomplishments as a woman leader in Ontario’s renowned wine industry.
Friday September 28th, 2017
6:30pm - 9:30pm
Sue Ann Staff Estate Winery
$70 per person - buy tickets here!
Bus will be arranged leaving from Guelph @ 5:30pm (additional $25)