Networking isn’t just about collecting business cards – when done right, it can be a powerful tool to building long-term, authentic professional relationships. This kind of event may be challenging for some people, though. Read on as communications specialist and executive coach Carole Lewis
shares her tips on how you can take the right steps to getting the most out of your opportunities to mingle.
The Right Event
First things first: how do you pick the right social event to attend? “Thinking about who you want to connect with can help you choose the events that will attract those types of people,” says Lewis, who has more than 16 years of experience coaching international organisations in finance, legal, IT and telecommunications. If you’re looking to expand your network in your field, choose gatherings related to your profession. But don’t limit yourself. “It’s also worth going beyond the familiar to gain different perspectives,” she adds. So, try events with interesting activities that would appeal to people from diverse backgrounds.
“Remember, you aren’t after a one-time connection.”
Also consider your own networking style. “Look for events that allow you to connect in ways that suit you,” Lewis advises. Do you like to talk freely in an open setting? Or do you prefer connecting with others while doing something fun together? Nowadays, many events have evolved from the standard meet-and-greet to include more engagement elements. For instance, The Mag Mixer: LET'S GET FIT, taking place from 22 September to 3 November, will offer networking opportunities through a range of fitness activities. “Structured activities provide a valid and easy reason for approaching new people,” she says. “Experiment with different options and find what works for you.”
The Right Intentions
Now that you’ve chosen your event, it’s time to prepare for it. Do your homework so you can maximise the occasion – understand what the event is about, who will be there, and what you want to share about yourself. These are all key things to consider before you go.
But according to Lewis, there’s another thing that’s perhaps even more important. “Set clear intentions that will guide you during the event,” she says. Your objectives could be anything from getting new ideas and discovering current trends, to practising listening skills, or simply to have fun. “These broader intentions help keep us focused on why we are there and provide a guide for connecting with people,” Lewis explains. “If you have an intention of ‘finding out more about industry trends’, for example, then it becomes natural to ask someone about trends and their views on a topic.”
The Right Questions
Whatever your intentions are, how you contribute to conversations is crucial to making a good impression at the event. “A common mistake caused by nerves is talking too much and not listening – or only listening and not talking,” she says. “You need a balance between the two for a great conversation.” One technique that helps create this balance is by asking questions. “If you listen first, then ask genuine questions, others will often ask questions back,” she says.
“The best questions are the ones that require someone to reflect and think about themselves,” she continues. “Questions like ‘Where do you work? What does your company do?’ don’t build connection as most people have stock answers that can be given in an instant.” So, follow up with an engaging question such as: “What led you into that role? What do you think is the future of the industry?” According to Lewis, this type of questions prompts further thought and shows genuine interest.
The Right Note
Now that you’ve tackled one significant part of networking – meeting people – you’ll need to remember that following up post-event is just as important in growing your new connections. An impersonal follow-up note that says “nice meeting you at XYZ event” is ineffective and won’t allow your message to be memorable; instead, refer back to your conversation. “Try something like ‘it was great speaking to you about XYZ project. Would you be interested in continuing our conversation over coffee?’” suggests Lewis. “This is personal and shows you were listening.”
“Remember, you aren’t after a one-time connection,” she adds. “Successful networkers gradually work at increasing and leveraging their network for long-term mutual benefit.” This is just the beginning of the relationship with your new connections!
Want more expert tips? See how positive body language can leave a great impression, here.
The Mag Mixer: LET'S GET FIT, exclusively for the Taikoo Place office community, features a six-week-long wellness programme where participants can socialise with like-minded professionals in a casual setting while reaching fitness goals.