Robin Kermode offers six simple tips for making the most out of networking at conferences and events.
1. Getting started is always the hardest thing to do at conferences and events. The best way to get started is to walk up to the first person you see on their own and simply say: ‘Hello, I’m [your name], I don’t know anyone here, do you?’ If they don’t know anyone either, they’ll be delighted that you’ve broken the ice. And if they do know someone they might introduce them to you, which is even better.
2. Another good piece of advice is to pretend you’re the ‘host’. For example, if you were hosting a party at your home and saw someone you didn’t know you wouldn’t hesitate in saying hello, would you? It would be the most natural thing for you to do. Try pretending to be the host at a networking event – it really does work.
3. Another thing that is absolutely critical is to ask questions. Don’t just stand there waiting to get your own clever points in. Always make the other person feel supremely interesting.
4. If you’re worried about getting ‘stuck’ with the same person for too long, then try one of these polite exit lines:
‘It’s been a pleasure to meet you, I hope you enjoy [the event].’
‘Would you like to come and get a [glass of wine/refill etc]?’ Then you can leave them at the bar as they get their drink.
5. If you’re someone who struggles to remember names and you’re in a situation where delegates are not wearing a name badge, try repeating their name back to them in conversation straight away, or introduce them to someone else. Saying their name out loud will help you to remember it.
If you get really stuck, try introducing them to someone next to you who’s name you do remember: ‘This is Pamela Smith and this is ? I’m so sorry, I can’t remember your surname.’ Then they will either reply: ‘Professor Smith’, or ‘Call me John.’
6. Business Cards are key. Don’t feel embarrassed about asking for a business card or giving yours at a networking event. Everyone else will be doing it, and it is flattering. Simply say: ‘It was lovely to meet you. May I take your card in case I ever need advice on [X]?’ Then offer your own card, even if they don’t ask for it.
Follow up the next day and certainly within two days. This is essential otherwise they may well have forgotten you.
And finally, remember that many people don’t particularly like networking events or find them difficult. All we have to do is to make it easy for the people we meet and they will be really grateful. Listen to them and make them feel special – that’s all you have to do!
Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor