For some, it's sheer horror – attending a networking event on behalf of their company, facing a room full of strangers. With whom to start a conversation? And how? Am I friendly and outgoing enough? Most of the time, these worries are unfounded and can be easily prevented. Plus, these events can boost your own career!
First things first – no, you are not alone. In fact, most of us feel the same, even if it seems to come so naturally to our extroverted peers. We all have a certain inhibition threshold we need to overcome in order to be able to get to know strangers. This applies even to the best networkers. But then why does it seem so effortless for them?
As so often, a simple change of perspective will do the trick. You have to network, that is represent your company, meet other professionals and experts from your field of work, connect with them and ideally start mutually beneficial collaborations with them. So do all the others in the room. That's why you don't need to feel any reticence meeting them. You all have the same goal. First hurdle overcome!
Your next step is starting a conversation. Communication experts recommend two strategies. If you happen to already know somebody, you can join them and let them take care of introducing you to others. If that is not the case, try staying in a line with others, whether for the drinks or the buffet. Is the service quick or is it painfully slow? One good line about either one is a good and unforced opener for a conversation with one of your „brothers in arms“. As for the conversation itself, experts say that there is nothing wrong with the usual smalltalk about the weather, at least at the start, as it is an inoffensive topic that anybody can relate to and have an opinion on. There are some who think that smalltalk is absolutely out of place in a formal or semi-formal situation, there are nevertheless some studies proving them wrong. According to those, smalltalk has a very important social function – it brings people who don't know each other together by creating a common ground on which both can agree. When the conversation is already flowing, it will be easy for you to segue into the business topics.
Don't forget to exchange cards with your new aquaintances. And remember to message them a few days after to ensure that the nice impression you've left has real staying power. That's how you build your professional network step by step and, thusly, stay updated on all the new developments regarding your field of profession. Those regular updates will come in handy not only at your workplace, but also if you should decide to find other employment in the same field. Never underestimate the power a friendly suggestion from a trusted co-worker can have on the recruiter!