The following questions were submitted by a recent client on our final session of a 12-week series. This client is a recent graduate and a self-professed Introvert that struggles with networking and self-promotion. Below are her questions followed by my responses. As this was the final session, it breaks from the traditional coaching format (which I tend to do anyway as a business coach). If you have any additional questions related to this topic, feel free to post it.
1. At networking events how will I know who to approach?
First of all networking events are extremely intimidating for people who are 1) introverted 2) don’t know anyone 3) are new in their career 4) unsure about what to say. As a tip or rule of thumb, your main objective in a networking event is to meet people and get to know them. It is not to sell or give elevator speeches (it gets old really fast). When I was first getting started in my career, I used the food and beverage technique. It’s easier to make conversation when people are standing in line at the bar, juggling plates at the buffet or attempting to place all of their things on a cocktail table. If there is a table with one or two people, ask to join them. You’ll be able to sense the tone of the conversation pretty quickly, but push yourself to stay even if it feels uncomfortable.
2. How do I start talking to them?
Keep it simple - introduce yourself by your first name. After they say theirs ask them what brings them to the event. (It’s a way to see what role they play without being blatant about who they work for and what they do.) Be prepared to answer this as well. It acts as a more open launch to other topics and overlaps for what you do and who they know.
3. I’m not employed by a company, how do I get around this in conversation?
Talk about what you do, not what your title is. For example, I’m a freelance writer and I’ve been working on some pieces for non-profits and tech companies. I’m also working on getting fluent in Spanish and learning web development. This is much more interesting then, I do administrative work for XYZ company. People want a break from the mundane. Mix it up!
4. How do I exit a conversation?
Once you feel the momentum drain from the conversation, feel free to excuse yourself either to the bathroom, bar or food line. If you’re one on one, try to invite someone else in, so you can pivot away. Make sure you have closure and aren’t running off. Thank them for chatting and hand them a business card if you feel inspired.
5. Should I bring business cards?
Yes! It’s so inexpensive to print them online. Do a short batch with your name, contact info and your title of choice if you aren’t employed by a traditional company i.e. Freelance Writer Specializing in Blogs, Press Releases, and White Papers.