How To | Make the Most of Awkward Networking Events
There’s nothing worse than a networking event that's buzzing with people who are laughing, chatting, and, well, networking while you stand in a corner feeling like a fish out of water. Networking events don’t have to be painful and awkward, here are some of our best tips and tricks for shaking off that awkwardness and getting the most out of networking events:
Bring friends to help you feel more comfortable BUT don’t stick by their side the whole time! You are there to meet new people not to stick with your friends! Use the comfort of having your friend with you to approach your first couple groups of people (you can easily bounce off of each other and make the approach and conversation much less nerve wracking), but after that, go your separate ways and do some networking on your own!
Don’t be afraid to just walk up and join a group of people - it can seem intimidating and awkward, but it’s a networking event so this is what people are expecting you to do! Find a group of people that isn’t too big, and just walk up and join the conversation. Start by quickly introducing yourself (to everyone in the group) and then the conversation will just pick up where it left off and you can add in naturally!
Keep your hands busy - If they are serving drinks or food grab some so you have something to hold in your hands, this can help you feel less awkward because it gives your hands something to do!
Come prepared with a set of questions (that can be asked to anyone of any position/company) that way you at least have a starting point for conversations! Once you have a good first question in, the rest of the conversation will work itself out naturally. Also, don’t freak out if the conversation dwindles down after a couple of minutes, the purpose of a networking event is to try to talk to as many people as possible - so if the conversation comes to an end that's ok! Say thanks, exchange contact information, and find another person to go talk to!
Come prepared with an elevator speech about yourself - if you have a clear mission for what you want to accomplish at this networking event, it can help calm your nerves! Your elevator speech really doesn’t need to be any longer than 15-30 seconds, and should give the person you’re talking to a little insight on what your interested in and thus steer the conversation in the most beneficial direction.
The first conversation is always the scariest, but as you have more conversations the more confident and comfortable you get. At the end of the day, just remember that you're talking to people. This is not an interview, this is your opportunity to connect with people based on your personality and interests, you don’t have to be overly professional, in fact, you shouldn’t be overly professional. You want to create meaningful relationships with the people you’re talking to so the more personable you are the better - just be yourself!