Stressful, exhausting, and absolutely great for your career – corporate networking is a mixed blessing. On one hand it means an evening of slightly forced conversation and standing around as you nervously rack your brains for something to say, but on the other it also means meeting cool people and making useful connections. But how’s a lady supposed to get that perfect blend of poised, professional, charming, and pretty-but-serious-looking at the same time? Well, with ease, if she knows the right tricks. If you want to network like a pro and make sure everything is a resounding success, here are some things to keep in mind for your next corporate event.
Do Your Research
Find out who will be at the event and do your research about everyone. You want to know as much as you can about the more influential people who will attend, especially their background and their work ethics. Of course, there’s no need to let them know you’ve done this research, nor do you want to go there and pretend you’re their biggest fan. You only need to be informed so there would be no missteps or awkward, inappropriate comments.
It really depends on the venue, but you generally want to keep it demure and polished. This doesn’t mean you need to pick a frumpy, boring dress, however. A pantsuit paired with a silk blouse is a wonderful option, but you can also go for a bodycon dress and style it up with a blazer. Feel free to pick more vibrant colours than you would at the office, especially deep blue, red, or other jewel tones. If you’re going to a cocktail party with your co-workers, then you can dress a bit more casually, though try to still keep it conservative – a pencil skirt paired with a blouse that has a fun print, for example. Your shoes should always be sensible, and if you’re going to wear heels, make sure that they’re no more than three-four inches high.
Ask a lot of Questions
People enjoy talking about themselves, and being a good listener is an easy way to make yourself likable. However, instead of the overused and annoying “So, what do you do?” it might be better to prepare better questions. For example, asking someone how they found out about this event or what made them come is a better idea. “What are you passionate about in your business?” is also a wonderful question that can prompt people to gush and talk excitedly and appreciate you for listening to them. Remember, you don’t want to just listen. Being a silent statue is unnerving, so make sure to offer feedback and commentary. You need to bring your best assertiveness game with you, and make sure you are always mindful about the things you say.
Introducing people to each other is a great idea even though it technically has little to do with you. You’ll leave the impression of someone who’s well-connected, and you’ll also come off as confident and helpful. If you know two people who you believe would get along well, introduce them.
Don’t Bring Your Friends
This is a really tempting thing to do, particularly if you’re shy, but it’s not always a great idea. It will defeat the purpose of going to a networking event if all you do is stand in the corner with someone you already know. The point is to meet new people, to discuss business, not to cling to your friend’s side nervously.
Remember that These are all Regular People
Even managers, CEOs, and important businesswomen and men who look like they’ve got all their ducks in a row at all times are only human. Regardless of how polished and confident someone looks, they’re still regular folks who are probably perfectly polite and nice and wouldn’t be there if they didn’t want to talk to others. You have things in common and they can learn from you as much as you can learn from them, so don’t be intimidated.
Don’t Toss Your Card in Every Direction
Shoving your business card into the hands of every single person you meet is a quick way to come off as very obnoxious. You need to build a rapport with the person you’re speaking to before you give them your details, and it’s much better to focus on quality rather than quantity. You don’t have to speak to everyone out there, especially not if they’re going to be five minute-long conversations filled with pointless small talk. Stick to a few people, establish a connection, and then offer them your card at the end of the conversation.
Being vague is annoying and it will make you come off as insecure. You don’t have to walk around on eggshells while you’re speaking to people. Be clear about what you want, be direct, and state your opinion instead of giving vague answers that don’t take a stand. Openly talking about what you do and what you want to accomplish is great.
And most of all, try to come to these events relaxed. Practicing every sentence and making a detailed plan will make you sound over-rehearsed and unnatural, so try to approach this with a more laidback attitude. Smile, be yourself, and enjoy it.