Networking is Not Taught it is Learned
How to mentally prepare?
Pick a snazzy outfit that you not only look great in, but feel great in! Find that perfect balance between comfortable and business appropriate; whether that is a pencil skirt, loose blouse, wedge heels and a blazer for the ladies or a tucked in button up shirt, khakis, loafers, and a sports coat for the gentlemen. Dress to impress while still feeling confident and at ease.
Keep in mind that no networking event will be the same format. Some might start with a stand-up cocktail reception followed by a sit-down plated dinner. Others might be a full evening cocktail reception. Stilettos for the ladies and new dress shoes for the gentlemen may not be the best footwear for this particular event format. Be sure to keep in mind the format of the event so you can dress to impress but also dress for comfort.
How to be socially equipped?
If small talk is not one of your strong suits, make it one! Do your research on what is going on in the world!
- Local News: The most recent sink hole on Rideau Street
- Global News: The protests associated with the Catalan Independence
- Pop Culture: 90th Academy Awards is coming up in March 2018
- Hollywood Gossip: Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez got back together!
Or what is going on in the Meeting Industry world!
- MPI Ottawa Event: MPI Charity Auction and Dinner is coming up in February 2018
- MPI Ottawa/Toronto/Montreal: “The Event” is coming up in April 2018
- MPI Global Event: World Education Congress (WEC) is coming up in June 2018
Being aware of some of the news headlines will help you be knowledgeable when making introductory small talk. Familiarizing yourself with the next upcoming Meeting Industry events can help you make conversation and commonalities with your fellow Meeting Industry professions and to see if you can look forward to networking with them again at an event in the future.
How to have sample questions prepared?
It is not necessarily about what questions you ask but rather being prepared with questions that you can ask first to get the conversation going. Do your research! If you are attending an educational event with a networking component, you might want to do preliminary research about the keynote speaker of the event. Read about what he/she might be talking about during their presentation. What is their relation to the Meeting Industry? What do they have experience in? Are they a strong advocate for Meeting Industry topics?
This research could be useful in coming up with conversational questions you might want to use while networking pre-presentation and post-presentation.
Pre-presentation question: What do you think about the keynote speaker’s topic on [insert a few words about the topic]?
Post-presentation question: What did you think about the keynote speaker’s notion of [insert a few words about presentation or a quote from the keynote speaker]?
How to exit a conversation?
There are some cases where you may not be connecting as well as you would have hoped with someone. It is important to not panic, but to remain calm, cool, and collected by remembering to breathe and smile. There is nothing wrong with politely exiting the conversation to take a seat, grab a drink, seek an hors d’oeuvre, use the restroom, or excuse yourself because you have spotted a familiar face.
How to keep valuable contacts?
It is important to follow-up and keep your promises! If you said you would email the person you were networking with the day after your networking event with a great meal preparation recipe, don’t forget. If you exchanged business cards with someone at an event and you feel like you made a meaningful connection with he/she, then email he/she the next day or connect with them on LinkedIn. Taking those few extra minutes to strengthen a new connection can help with maintaining that connection in the future.
Try to incorporate these new tricks when preparing for your next networking event. Implementing these tips could make the difference between a person remembering you at a future event or not.
If you have any questions about this article, student membership or have topics you would like to see in future “Coaching Corner” articles, please don’t hesitate to send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article Written By Angelita Aboukassam, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
Article edited by Rozanne Lyons, CMP, Intertask Conferences