Spring has sprung and it’s time to get out and about to build your professional network. Networking behind a screen is great, you can chime in on conversations on your own terms and make comments without feeling intimidated, but sometimes there is really no replacement for being there. In fact, 40% of people feel more comfortable engaging online rather than in person!
When attending professional events, seminars, receptions, or parties in your community, knowing how to work it like a pro can make a big difference. It will keep events exciting and will add value by expanding your circle of diverse professionals!
We definitely understand that walking into a room full of strangers can be daunting and occasionally even awkward. So, the best thing you can do is be prepared with a solid plan. Know what you want to accomplish ahead of time.
Here are some steps to consider when practicing how to “work the room”:
1) Go With a Purpose
The next time you go to an event, make sure you remember who you want to meet and why. For example, if you are attending one of our Professional Diversity Network events, take a moment to explore organizations that will be there. Research their cultures and potential available positions.
Most events also have Facebook pages as well. Find the event on Facebook and add yourself to the guest list. Take a look at who else is going, too. Is there someone you will want to connect with at the event?
2) Know How to Break the Ice But Exit Gracefully
Breaking the ice is easier than you think! Many people get caught up in thinking they have to say something profound, but that’s not the case. Sometimes breaking the ice is as simple as commenting on the venue, program, or even the food. Some other ideas are asking where they’ve traveled from, or if they have been to the event before. Once you strike up a casual conversation, remember to share your information or business card before parting ways!
3) Mind Your Handshake
We know…you have probably heard this a thousand times. But guess what? That’s because it’s important! Most conversations start with an introduction and a handshake. Make sure you put out your full hand (no cold fish halfsies!) and shake firmly. Maintain eye contact and don’t forget to smile!
4) Use Your Diversity to Your Advantage
If you’re attending an event hosted by us, you are guaranteed to be meeting with companies specifically looking to expand their workforce with diverse talent. Companies know that hiring diverse talent is good for business; it brings fresh ideas and perspectives that are invaluable! So, be your best sales advocate and make sure you never downplay your unique position, whatever that may be!
5) Be a Lone Ranger
If you are attending an event with friends, make sure you remember why you attended. Usually the reason is to build your network or extend your professional contacts. If you’re with your friends throughout the event, this will prevent you from doing that. So, step out of your comfort zone and get networking!
6) Have Awareness of Your Body Language and Others
This might seem like an obvious tip, but paying attention to your body language goes a long way when you are trying to meet new people. Folding your arms and looking at the floor gives an automatic impression that you’re not interested in meeting new people. The goal is to look friendly and open. Leaving your arms open and making eye contact is much more welcoming! It’s simple, but true.
7) Follow Up
This final step makes sure that your in-person adventures don’t go to waste. Make sure you gather contact information when you have meaningful conversations. Then send a quick follow up to confirm your connection and set yourself up for future communication. It can even be a very simple “nice to meet you, keep in touch!”
Now that you know what to practice, it’s time to get out there and build your network in person. You can start by checking out upcoming networking events and career fairs here.