Eight keys to working a networking event

Alan Ludmer

Alan Ludmer

The ability to network successfully is a critical component of a successful employment search. A key part of networking is knowing how to work an event. We must find potential contacts and employers, present our infomercial, and in general be able to present a compelling value proposition. For many of us that’s tough. We are confronted with the daunting challenge of entering a room filled with hundreds of strangers. We want to be like them, carefree and confident, but we feel overcome by nerves. How do we make it work? We cannot change our DNA, but here are some techniques to ease the anxiety level and make group networking experiences more manageable and comfortable.

1. Volunteer: Sign up to volunteer if possible. This affords you the status of being knowledgeable about the event and able to help others. Mentally you now have an official reason for being there. Think of yourself as more than just the regular attendee – you are part of the host team!

2. Come early: Much of the intimidation factor is the sheer size of the audience. So arrive very early, even offer to help set up. This gives you a chance to meet the organizers and other volunteers in a small setting. Busy work will help take your mind off the event and knowing the hosts make you feel like a part of the team. Often they will repay you for your help by making some introductions.

3. Dress Comfortably: You are already going to be nervous and stiff so don’t make it worse by wearing an itchy wool suit or stuffing yourself into an outfit you don’t really like. Wear something comfortable – don’t push the envelope with flip flops and shorts, but if you prefer a suit – wear one you really like, if you typically dress casual then allow yourself to be comfortable and still look professional. Make sure to into account the dress code of the event and don’t go to an extreme on either side.


4. Wingman: Attend with a friend and you can help each other navigate the crowd. If you can go with someone who is more extroverted that is even better, but the goal is having a wingman/woman. You can take turns introducing each other to new people and allow your friend to brag about you. As a dynamic duo you can approach others as a team and neither of you will feel all alone in a swirling sea of networkers.

5. Fellow Introverts: Find other introverts. Look against the walls, columns or other obstacles where they frequently attempt to camouflage themselves into the room. Approach such folks and introduce yourself – they are just as uncomfortable and anxious as you. This allows you to practice approaching others. You may even find a buddy to help work the room.

6. Set Goals: Fear of networking and interacting among strangers cannot be conquered in one day. Do things a bit at a time. Do not expect to incorporate all these suggestions at once. Integrate them slowly into your practice. Goals aid this process. Never commit to yourself to stay for a period of time. Set goals that involve meeting people: Commit to introducing yourself to 5 new people and reconnecting with 5 others you already know to catch up. When you reach your goals you can leave, patting yourself on the back for a job well done.

7. Follow Up: Don’t waste all your efforts by not following up with those you met. This is the crucial step! How you respond sets the tone for who you are and how others remember you. Send each person an individual message, be it a phone call, email or note card – make it memorable and personalize the message. No room for generic stuff here! For those whom you want to meet again, simply invite them to have lunch or coffee.

8. Face to Face: Relationships start with a face to face conversation. Don’t launch into your sales pitch or dominate the conversation. Show genuine interest in them as a person – what they do outside work, their family, dreams etc. Think how can you help them in terms of connecting them with others you know? They are testing your human being factor. Make sure you pass. Always remember, people do business with those they like and trust. In every interaction and every conversation BE THAT PERSON!

About the author:

Alan Ludmer is the president of ARL, LLC which specializes in outplacement, career and executive coaching, search/recruitment, corporate marketing and branding. He is the lead consultant for the Jewish Family & Children Services Lifeline Program. For more information, contact [email protected].