You’ve heard it before: networking is an essential part of being self-employed. You know you are good at what you do, but networking is a whole new ball game. If it was up to you you’d ignore these events, but we all know the importance of a solid network. No worries, Spilberg to the rescue!
Don’t overthink your opening line
Networking and dating really isn’t that different. You are always a bit nervous, and using a rehearsed opening line (almost) never works. Luckily no-one at these events is a networking pro, so a simple “what do you do” or “what field do you operate in” will suffice. Is that still a bit too outgoing for you? Then you can always discuss the snacks, everyone loves snacks!
Look for someone who is alone
At these events there are always others that are standing or sitting by themselves somewhere. Join them! Making contact 1-on-1 is much easier than diving into group dynamics by introducing yourself to a group right away. Start with the simple introductions and ease into the more difficult ones as you go.
Rehearse a short pitch about yourself
At networking events there is one certainty: people want to know who you are and what you do. This is something you can (and should!) prepare. Make sure your pitch isn’t longer than 30 seconds and don’t make it to salesy. Just tell them what you do and mention one big project you’ve done or a skill that you have that is pretty unique. Don’t worry about leaving out some details, they make a great follow-up topic if someone is interested in you after your short pitch.
Don’t forget to listen
At a networking event (well, actually everywhere) there are more talkers than listeners. Most people listen, but only to know when they can pitch in with their story. If you are introverted by nature you can use that to your advantage here. By asking questions, genuine interest and listening closely you’ll stand out, and standing out is what you want to do during these types of events.
Don’t just talk to people who can help you up
One of the biggest mistakes people make during networking events is just talking to managers and other decision makers. Of course this could help you in your career, but as soon as someone notices this behavior your reputation takes a hit. Besides that you don’t know where the person you talk to today is a year from now. Who knows, they might become a manager or even the new CEO. So please, talk to whoever you like and connect with. You never know where (and to who!) they can take your name.
Don’t worry too much
A networking event is not a job interview so try to relax and enjoy yourself. Don’t drink like you would with your friends, but please don’t forget to have fun!