Last week, we shared some awesome advice from other bloggers about navigating the oh-so-exciting world of networking. And by exciting, I mean usually stressful and overwhelming. Angela and I are both introverts so we both have felt exhausted by just thinking about attending networking events. However, as a blogger and small business owner, I’ve learned that when I do actually make an effort to connect with like-minded people, something good always happens! In fact, I’ve met several of my close friends through through networking. Sometimes the easiest way to network is by simply reaching out with an email (that’s how Angela and I became friends!). But if you feel like getting out from behind your computer screen, networking events and parties are the way to go. Here are 5 tips on how to get the most out of networking events (for introverts and extroverts alike).
1. Network to make connections, not necessarily to gain clients
I think sometimes we dread networking because we think it means we have to really talk ourselves up and sell our ideas and services to people we want to work with. However, when we put aside the pressure to gain something from networking, it’s so much easier to have a natural, genuine conversation. I like to think of networking as an opportunity to make friends. And who knows, maybe these friends will become my clients or introduce me to potential clients in the future. But that’s never the immediate goal.
2. Bring well-designed business cards
I’ve been to several networking events without business cards and I always wish I’d had some printed in time. People are going to ask you for your card as soon as you tell them what you do, especially if it’s something that piques their interest, so come prepared! Make sure your business cards are memorable and truly represent your brand/personality, so that people hang onto them. A while ago, we shared 7 creative business cards ideas, along with tools to create your own. The sky’s the limit with biz card creativity. Share something you’re proud of!
3. Don’t be afraid to strike up random conversations
One of my very favorite things about living in Portland is that everyone seems to be connected. The city isn’t small by any means, but somehow I end up having mutual friends with almost everyone I meet. A couple months ago, I went to a networking event for bloggers and I only knew one person. By the end of the night, I had met at least 5 people with whom I had mutual friends. So fun! The best thing was, our conversations weren’t formal or professional at all. We spent the evening talking about food and sharing pictures of our dogs. Business talk can come later, but I think it’s important to build some trust and focus on making authentic relationships first (see #1!).
4. If you see someone whose work you admire, go up and introduce yourself!
Have you ever found yourself in the same room as someone you’ve stalked quite a bit on Instagram but have never met in person? At the last networking event I went to, I saw a girl whose work I follow on IG and absolutely love. As soon as I saw her I exclaimed, “I follow you on Instagram!!” And she said, “OMG really?!” It turns out we have lots in common and know tons of the same people. Instant friendship.
5. Invite a friend (but talk to people other than your friend)
Bringing a friend to a networking event is one of the easiest ways to feel more comfortable mingling through a group of strangers. The bloggers party I mentioned in #3 was one that I attended with my good friend Rachel. Initially, we weren’t feeling very social so we sat alone on a couch, eating appetizers and drinking wine. Finally, we forced ourselves to get up and make conversation with other people in the room. And it was so worth it! We ran into a few people we knew, met several people we didn’t know, and found friends to collaborate with in the future. Yay!
If you’ve attended a networking event before, how was your experience? Is there anything that could have made it better?