Talk to Strangers: How to make the most of a networking event
By Terry Preston | On May 11, 2018
In any career, whether in PR or otherwise, the famous saying remains true: it’s all about who you know. Sure, your personal talents and abilities make up a majority of your career successes, but having a personal connection to someone in a field or at a specific organization can open additional doors for your career. As a result, it helps to build meaningful connections in your industry.
I recently attended Out in Tech, a networking event aimed at individuals who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community and work in the technology industry. The organization aims to host events and panels where individuals can hear from industry leaders and connect with others in their community. Through this event, I was given the opportunity to connect with a large group of people who all belonged to the same industry as me. Below are tips that everyone should follow in order to network successfully.
Know your goals
The Out in Tech networking event’s sign in desk gave participants the option to choose between one of three color coded tags – allowing attendees to indicate whether they were actively recruiting, actively seeking a new job or open to hearing about potential opportunities. This made for an effective networking strategy, because participants were able to better align their efforts with individuals that could help them accomplish their professional goals. It’s an added benefit to talk to someone about new career opportunities when they are looking for someone to fill that role.
Talk to strangers
Of course it’s more comfortable to stay in the company of people you may already know, and approaching a stranger in a crowd can be nerve racking, but it’s important to remember: everyone at a networking event is there to talk to strangers, so don’t be afraid! When at an industry-specific mixer, you are guaranteed to have something in common with the other attendees, so don’t be afraid to say hello. You never know – that first introduction could open the door to a new career (or at the very least, a new friend).
Get the Digits
Not every networking lead will result in a new job or new client, but you should make sure to get the contact information of everyone you meet. These individuals could introduce you to new opportunities to join professional organizations, or could pass along your information to their personal network of contacts. In addition, you should pass along the information of people you meet to any of your own relevant contacts – because you never know when that person could return the favor down the line.
Keep in Contact
Social media makes maintaining your professional network a seamless process. By connecting on LinkedIn, Twitter and the like, you have the ability to keep tabs on the professional connections you’ve made, and can provide them all with updates on your career at once. That way, when new opportunities arise, you can remain top of mind for your connections.
It’s important to network for your professional development and to grow your contacts in a meaningful way. When you are meeting new people at an event, stay open minded – because you never know where that new connection will lead.