Networking events can be daunting. The idea of entering a room full of strangers, trying to make an impression and form a meaningful professional connection while wearing a cheesy nametag can make even the most confident person feel uncomfortable. In an ideal world, you would attend every networking event with a friend or colleague. However conflicting schedules, limited invite lists, and varying job titles don’t always allow that to be possible.
While the idea of attending a networking event alone may make most people want to recoil to their desks, such events are extremely valuable professional assets that should not be missed. Instead of skipping out on the next networking event that you have to attend alone, try these tips to make your solo endeavor a success.
Have Your Elevator Pitch Ready
There are few things more uncomfortable than introducing yourself to someone only to have it followed by an extremely awkward moment of silence. By practicing your elevator pitch, (a 60 second summary of you and your professional achievements and goals) you can avoid this unwanted pause altogether. While you don’t need to have a script memorized actor-style, mentally laying out a few bullet points about who you are and why you are at this networking event can make you feel more at ease when starting conversations with an unknown professional. This will show attendees that you are professional, goal-oriented, confident, and ready to form meaningful connections.
Find Common Ground
Now that you’ve provided your elevator pitch, it is time to create an organic conversation. Chances are after you tell someone about your career and job description, they will reciprocate. Make sure to listen carefully and try to note any points of common ground. You both have an MBA? Inquire further about that. Where did they get their degree? What year? What did they study in undergrad? Asking people about themselves while touching on things you have in common will allow them to feel at ease and will lay the groundwork for forming a professional relationship.
Don’t Forget Business Cards
While this may seem obvious, a surprising amount of people neglect to bring their business cards to networking events. By doing so, they create a conundrum at the end of their conversations. Instead of having the person take out their phone to write down your contact information or having them look you up on LinkedIn on the spot, simply end the conversation by handing them your business card. This will provide a solid and comfortable conclusion to the conversation while leaving the door open for further connection in the future.
Take a deep breath and remember that most people there are in the exact same position as you are! Chances are, there are many other people attending this networking event alone and feeling nervous and uncomfortable. Once you take a step back and realize that nearly everyone is out of their element, the idea of going up to a stranger and starting a conversation will seem much less daunting.
All in all, networking events are an integral part of the professional world and can be used to advance your career. While it may seem tempting to skip out on them instead of going alone, if you go in prepared and with the right mindset you’ll feel comfortable and be owning the room in no time.
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