Work-related functions can be daunting, especially if you’re flying solo, but they can also be a great way to build industry contacts. You may need to draw on other professionals expertise more than you realize down the road. You never know when you’ll need advice from someone or if you’ll have someone asking you for a recommendation of a certain company. If you have this kind of information up your sleeve, you’ll be helpful to others as well as knowledgeable.
Also, from a more personal perspective, having other relevant contacts to your job is always a good idea – you never know what’s around the corner and a back-up plan never hurt anyone. The saying often goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.
Here are some easy to apply tricks on how best to build contacts:
1. Do your research.
If you can find out who is attending ahead of the event, try and do some research into the guest list and see if there’s anyone you particularly want to speak to – maybe an executive from your dream company, or a business that provides a service you’re interested in. That way you can make the most of the opportunities.
2. Be prepared with questions.
Always try and think of good questions and conversation starters. A great topic is often current affairs – so make sure you’re up to date with the latest news, particularly business stories.
3. Pack business cards and have them easily accessible.
I keep mine in an easy to reach pocket in my handbag (with spares in my wallet). That way you can swiftly pull them out when someone gives you theirs.
4. Remember people’s names by using the repeat trick.
When someone introduces themselves to you, shake their hand and repeat their name back to them by saying “Hi Mark, nice to meet you”. That way it will stick more in your mind.
5. Dress the part.
If you feel good in what you’re wearing – that new pencil skirt, cropped blazer and pointy shoes – you’ll exude more confidence, which can be a really attractive quality. I always prefer to be too dressy rather than the other way around. Better to stand out for looking good, right!
6. Work the room.
I know it can be scary going up to someone random and sticking your handout but if you just do it, then it won’t be so daunting. Networking events generally have a snowball effect. Once you start talking to someone, another person comes along and then you get introduced to someone else and so forth. It’s just about taking that initial step!
7. Consider taking a buddy.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a “plus one” and then you can invite a colleague to go along with you. These things can be a lot easier arriving with someone and a lot less nerve-racking. However, in saying that, sometimes it can work in your favour to go on your own – it forces you to talk to others!
8. Pack peppermints.
So you don’t have to be self-conscious after eating a few canapés!