May I Have Your Attention Please? The Key to Proper Networking

By Cassandra Rudd

Our last post discussed the importance of the elevator speech when creating connections with a possible employer or contact. This week, we will be featuring the importance of networking. At some point in your college or professional career you will be required to network. You may be at a career fair, a conference or even a dinner party. No matter where you are, these tips and tricks to networking will help you make a good impression with the right person.

The first step to successful networking is, of course, starting up a conversation. It sounds easy, but in the moment one can be a little nervous about meeting such important people. However, this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity and you should be prepared. So what do you do? First up is always an introduction, as they say you never get a second chance to make a first impression! Always introduce yourself and shake his/her hand, and be sure to state your name clearly so that there is no confusion later on. This would be a great time to give your elevator pitch! Need some help with the perfect elevator pitch? You will want to form a connection with the person such as finding a common interest, like the weather, current events, or even sports. This would also be a great opportunity for you to ask some questions about the person with whom you are speaking or about the event. This shows that you are interested in what they have to say.

Which leads to the second step: keeping the conversation going. This can be difficult to do at first, however, with a few simple questions you can get a plethora of important information in a short amount of time. Some ways to keep the conversation going would be to discuss the event you are attending and even ask about their career, company or industry. By keeping the conversation professional and focused on the person you are networking with, you will keep them engaged and show them that you are interested.

The third and final step can be the trickiest: how to end the conversation. Remember you are there to mix and mingle – don’t attach yourself to one person all night. It can be difficult to bring a conversation to an end without coming off as being rude or disinterested. If you’d like to exit a conversation, try some of these suggestions:

  • Try introducing them to other people at the event or changing the subject to a topic that allows you the opportunity to bring the conversation to a quick close and to step away.
  • I’m going to get some food now that the line is shorter. It was great meeting you!
  • Say that it’s time for you to leave. It has been nice talking to you. Or, I would love to talk with you again, though. May I have your business card?

Another important skill to learn is how to work a room at an event to make the most of networking opportunities. There are a few pointers you should always remember when going to an event where you could be networking with several important people.

  • Be sure to research the event you are attending, know who will be there and the focus of the event.
  • In terms of your appearance, make sure that you are dressed professionally but that you stand out in some way from the crowd of other professionals, but not in a way that is offensive. Your overall appearance, body language and clothing should portray confidence. Be sure to smile, uncross your arms and appear interested.
  • A great place to meet and quickly start up a conversation is the food or drink station. People are more accessible and more comfortable talking over a meal or a drink.
  • Next you want to scan the crowd to see if you recognize anyone and if there is anyone in particular you would like to speak with.
  • Try to meet the most important people first, such as keynote speakers, before they get too busy toward the end of the event.
  • Keep an eye out for important people who may be alone, this gives you the opportunity to speak with them.
  • Offer the person your business card. This gives you the opportunity to obtain theirs as well.

“How To Work A Room” nd
For more on how to work a room, please check out Diane Darling’s networking tips.

Learning how to network in any setting is important for forging connections with people who may be able to help you achieve your professional goals. So learn these skills now so that you can have them ready to go when the moment is right and make those key connections that just might land you a dream job or internship.

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