Going to industry functions is an important part of immersing yourself in an industry sector. It’s a great way to meet new contacts, and people are there to network. It never ceases to amaze me though how often I will introduce myself to a group of people only to find that they all work at the same company! What a wasted opportunity. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Remember your etiquette. There are a few golden rules when attending a networking function to make sure that it is as effortless as possible.
- Keep your drink/ and or your food in your left hand. That way, your right hand is free to shake hands at any time, and won’t be covered with food or clammy hand from holding a cold drink. Where possible when going to a cocktail function – eat before you go. That way you are there to network and your hand will be free.
- Handshakes – a lot of people get this wrong. Your hand should be web to web with the other person, and two or three pumps are appropriate. You want your hold to be firm, but not crushing the other person’s hand. Eye contact is important.
- Remember names. Be able to introduce the person that you just met to someone else.
- Ask permission to stay in touch with someone you met.
- Wear your name badge in a place that people can easily see it. Ladies – this is not on your handbag or near your cleavage – you want people to be able to easily read it without being embarrassed or straining to see it.
- First impressions are important! How you walk, talk and dress will give people an immediate perception of you and your personal brand. When attending an industry function, it’s good to wear something that has pockets so that you can take business cards – and you have somewhere to put cards that you receive.
- When introducing yourself, say your full name and the company that you work for slowly and clearly. It is appropriate to follow up with a business card at a function – that’s what they are for!
- Break into small groups – if you are alone, introduce yourself to groups of less than four people. That way you don’t have to wait for 5 people to all introduce themselves (and remembering names gets harder). Ask permission to join a group… a simple “may I join you?” goes a long way. In nine years of recruitment, no one has said no to me yet!
- Keep an open stance. If you are talking with someone and you are too close to them, it will not encourage others to join your group.
- Be genuine – follow up with people that you want to keep in touch with.
- Finally – don’t spend the whole function with one group. Move around. Use the bathroom, or excuse yourself to get another drink. Don’t leave anyone alone. If you want to move on, introduce the person that you just met to someone else first.
These are some simple tips to make networking easier. Most people go to networking functions to meet new people, but are often too shy to move out of their comfort zone. Developing networking skills is a great way to set yourself apart from your competitors and get in touch with those golden passive candidates.