Networking at large events is essential for making new connections, but it can seem overwhelming if you don’t know anyone in the room and it’s a very large event. It can also seem like an insurmountable challenge if you are more introverted than extroverted.
So, how can you make a networking at a large event successful? Here are three tips to help:
1. Set a goal: Focus on quality over quantity. Going to an event with a specific goal in mind can help you to feel more at ease. Decide what you want to accomplish before you get there. Is it to make a new connection in your field, meet the speaker, or congratulate a former mentor for a recent business accomplishment? Determine your primary goal up front. Then establish a secondary goal.
Think about your last networking event. What would you do differently? Add this to your list of goals. Accomplishing your smaller goals will make networking seem more successful and give you confidence to set a bigger goal for the next event. Whatever goal you choose, it should be achievable but also a stretch for you so you are pushing yourself to do more each time.
2. Prepare talking points. If you are not great at small talk, it’s important to prepare questions and topics for discussion when you make new connections. (Even if you are good at it, taking a few minutes to think about what you want to talk about can make your conversations with others more meaningful.) Your talking points don’t have to be profound, but they should be thoughtful.
Try starting with something easy like, “What brings you to this event?” or “What did you think about the last speaker’s presentation?” Try to make the conversation natural, not like an interview. Once your new connection responds, tell them why you are at the event, or what you thought about the presentation. Whatever you say, be genuine. And don’t feel like you have to talk to someone for an hour. Remember that everyone else is there to network as well.
3. Keep the connections alive. Sometimes we don’t complete this step, and it is key to building your network, so it’s a critical one. Whether you spoke to the person for just a few minutes or had a more meaningful conversation, take the initiative to take the connection further. If you have exchanged business cards with others at an event, you should take the next step to connect with them on LinkedIn, or send a short email letting them know you appreciated meeting them. You never know where your connections will lead.