I recently attended an alumni networking event that was open to everyone in the local community, including non-alumni like myself. Even though I have been to dozens of such events, I still get a little nervous walking into a crowd of strange faces and interjecting myself into a circle of chatting people who stare back at me with as much awkwardness as I feel on the inside. Plus, I had forgotten to listen to the news that morning, so I was not armed with any trivial tidbit to deploy as a conversation starter. Thank goodness the organizers were well prepared for the event and encouraged mixing by designating two blocks of time where people could only talk to other attendees 1) who were in the same profession as themselves; or 2) who had a different color sticker on their name tag (the sticker indicated your association as alumni or belonging to another professional support group in the area.) Plus, a glass of red wine from the cash bar definitely helped to dull the nervous edge!
In general, it can be difficult meeting new people for a wide range of reasons (e.g., when you are stuck at work all the time or if you suffer from extreme shyness.) The event reminded me of the need to review some tips that I had presented in a webinar last year to the Association for Women in Science. I have uploaded the “Proactive Approaches for Building a Professional Network” slides to SlideShare for a quick refresher on networking techniques. You can view the slides displayed below or online here. The presentation describes various places to meet people, how to approach them and ways to follow-up with contacts. I also provide a few considerations to think about when designing a networking event.
Do you have any other tips on networking or designing effective networking events that are not covered on the slides? Please leave a comment below to share with other readers.