It isn’t what you know, but who you know.
How many times have you heard that? It’s cliche but factual. Networks are powerful because your career advancement can be impacted by those you are connected with. Your ability to build social networks are important assets to your professional and personal portfolio. As a corporate professional or entrepreneur, creating meaningful conversations at networking events will help you collaborate with other people who share similar interests. In the end you will foster a network of individuals who can contribute to your social capital and the benefits that come with it.
Here are three ways to engage in a conversation at a networking event:
1. Pose a question
After you have stated your elevator pitch (a non awkward elevator pitch) follow up with a question. “Hi I’m Samantha and I work in insurance. I am here to learn more about claims handling. What are you looking to gain from this event?” When you pose questions, you are creating dialogue that will help you get to know the individual. We put a lot of pressure on what to say to make a good impression, when we really should focus on having the conversation flow as naturally as possible. Don’t get me wrong, it is great to leave a good impression on someone at a networking event, but it is better to have a conversation that doesn’t feel forced or scripted.
2. Have transitional conversations
You should create a discussion that will lead to continuous dialogue. Depending on the overall goal/outcome you are looking to achieve, most conversations shouldn’t end after “I’m doing well and you.” Try to have the conversation grow beyond the initial “hello” stage, especially if you desire to keep in touch with the individual post event. A good transitional conversation will create the opportunity to offer your business card or connect on social media.
3. Discuss industry specific news
Topics, such as industry updates, are great conversation starters. You can elaborate on what the change means to you and how it can/will affect your role and vice versa. When you stay abreast on trends you are building your knowledge, which will help you be recognized as an industry leader by your peers. Your peers will feel comfortable reaching out to you because of your expertise, strengthening your connections and reputation as an industry expert.
There are many aspects of networking, and some of them can be challenging. Throughout my professional career, I have learned the best way to expand my network is to put myself out there and create the conversations I want to have. Conferences, seminars and/or events can inspire you to cultivate the career of your dreams or introduce you to individuals who can help you advance in your career. I urge you to expand your network by going to professional conferences and seminars and talking — aka meet and mingle. Don’t be afraid to speak to someone first.