How to network like a pro

Should I keep circling? Whom should I speak with first? Is there anyone I actually know here? If these questions sound familiar, you’ve come to the right place.

Networking events of any size can be intimidating, but they don’t have to be. Here are a few tools to help your next event go smoothly.

Do your research. Try to find out who will be at the event ahead of time and brainstorm how your services could meet their needs. Use that information to create a short list of people to look for at the event, as well as a few questions or ideas to show them that you’re interested in what they do. Don’t worry about getting business cards from each and every participant, just focus on meeting those that you can help most. Even large events will seem intimate when you have a predetermined list of potential connections.

Nail your introduction. The way you start a conversation sets the tone for the entire interaction, so try to move away from the standard resume recitation. Luckily, you can use a few simple tricks to create a great greeting. One way is to bond over a shared fact, such as what you hope to learn from an event or what excites you most about a particular industry. You could also try bonding over a common personal experience, like travel or volunteer work. Or, why not mix things up and discuss something more fun like your recent move to a new city or a hobby?

Come prepared to listen. A good networker really hears his audience and makes people feel comfortable to open up about their goals and needs. Being engaged in the conversation will help you remember details, but jotting down a few important notes helps if you have trouble ­– just do it discretely so it doesn’t feel like you’re conducting an interview. When you follow up, you can include the small details that were mentioned at the event, whether it was something about the person’s upcoming vacation or business needs, and that gesture will go a long way.

What are some of your tips for networking? Let us know!

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