3 Tips for Surviving Your Next Networking Event

Networking rarely comes naturally for most people. While everyone can benefit from learning this critical skill, it’s often not taught in school or any formal setting so we are often left to fend for ourselves. I compare networking similar to training a specific muscle group — it will take a lot of patience, repetition, and failure before you feel stronger with it. Even for someone like me who makes career videos and shares career advice for a living, it’s still not easy to go to a networking event and immediately feel comfortable.

So if you feel unnatural and awkward in these situations, trust me, you are not alone. These are three of my best tricks that helped me over the years and may also help you survive your next networking event.

Find Your ‘Anchor’ Person

One of the scariest parts of networking is when you show up to the event alone. This may make you feel like you are lost in a sea of strangers with no lifeline. In these situations, I suggest you find your “anchor.” This anchor is going to be someone who you can tag team the event with or just be someone you check in with from time to time. 

Your anchor can be a colleague, friend, or even someone you met at a previous event. It could even be someone who arrived at the same time as you. Who they are is not the most important thing here.

Try to make friends with them first, and strike up a conversation. Having this familiar face in the crowd can provide a sense of security and make approaching others much less daunting. Your anchor can even introduce you to their contacts, which helps build up momentum.

You don’t have to (nor want to) stay with them the entire time as that would defeat the whole purpose of you coming to a networking event. But if a couple of hours of meeting other people pass and you find yourself needing a break, try to find this person and reconnect. I am sure that this will re-energize your social batteries and spur you on for the rest of the day.

Don’t Try To Meet Everyone

It can be tempting to exchange calling cards with as many people as possible, but I don’t recommend this approach. You want to make a strong impression and meaningfully connect with people, which you can’t do if you’re running circles around the venue.

What I do recommend is to make a strategic list of three to five people that you especially want to meet. Research these people in advance to understand their backgrounds and interests, and what you can potentially help them with in the future. Doing this allows you to focus on quality over quantity, and is more likely to lead to genuine, lasting connections. With that said, also be open to meeting other people who are not on this target list.

Don’t Hyperfocus On Just One Person

Like most people who attend networking events, you probably have your sights set on one or two particular people that you really want to meet. This person’s work might have had a huge influence on your career, or maybe you’ve heard of an exciting opportunity that they can offer. It’s natural to feel drawn to such individuals, but it’s essential not to hyperfocus on just one person because of two things.

First, you don’t want the pressure that comes with the anticipation. If you know that meeting this person and successfully networking with them is crucial for your goals, it’s easy to let the pressure build up in your head.

To navigate this, I recommend to work the room and talking to other people first. This helps you get rid of those nerves and even practice your small talk. If you know that they’re going to be at the event for a while, make them the fourth or fifth person on your list to talk to that day.

Secondly, you can’t let the success of your networking efforts rest solely on meeting that person. That individual you’re laser-focused on might have a busy schedule, be in high demand, or simply not be in the right frame of mind to connect at that moment. Meanwhile, other attendees may be more accessible and equally beneficial to your goals. Of course it’s a good idea to make an effort to connect with your target person, but don’t let it consume your entire event experience.

Be open to meeting other interesting individuals, even if they weren’t on your initial list. You never know when the right opportunity may present itself. Happy networking!

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