Networking Tips and Guidance for Professional and Social Events

Use these simple networking tips to look confident and natural when meeting people in any situation. 

Networking can be difficult for many people. If networking makes you anxious, even the thought of going to a social or professional event can stress you out.

Sometimes these events are unavoidable, like your work holiday party.

And if you add the pressure of talking to strangers, it can be painfully uncomfortable.

If you tend to avoid social and networking events due to anxiety over meeting people, this post is for you. These networking tips can help you feel more comfortable meeting new people in any setting.

And they work in any setting, whether you’re at a conference, networking event, social gathering, or even your work holiday party.

It gets easier the more you do it, so get out there and practice! And after some time, you’ll be more confident and relaxed when talking with people you’re meeting for the first time.

Following some simple networking tips can make meeting new people far easier.

These tips and guidelines will help you enjoy networking more, and hopefully you’ll even look forward to it as you expand your network.

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

Brene Brown

Change How You Think About Networking

Mindset can often be the biggest barrier if you find something difficult. If you find networking events unpleasant, it may be how you’re thinking about them. 

If you shift your perspective, it can be far more enjoyable. 

Shift how you think about networking. Instead, think of it as meeting new people and simply having conversations.

For example:

  • You’re meeting people who have interesting stories to share.
  • You’ll likely meet someone who has a common interest or knows something you’ve wanted to learn more about.
  • You may meet someone who can connect you to a fantastic resource.
  • Or you may meet someone who’s just completed something you’ve always wanted to try. 

You never know who you’re going to meet or what you’ll gain. See it as an opportunity to explore, and be open to the experience. 

“The best way to look back at life fondly is to meet it – and those along your journey – warmly, kindly and mindfully” 

― Rasheed Ogunlaru

Networking Guidelines and Tips

Follow these guidelines to make networking easier. You can use them at any type of professional or social event. With practice, you’ll come across as more confident and you’ll actually start to enjoy networking events and meeting new people.

1. Don’t stare at your phone during the event. This sends the message that you’re not open to conversation.

2. Talk to strangers. Speak to people you don’t know well, or people you’d like to get to know better. 

3. Don’t interrupt private conversations. Don’t join a conversation where two people are talking since they may be discussing an important or private matter.

4. Location, location, location. Don’t stand in the corner hoping someone will come up to talk with you. Instead, go where the people are. Prime places to stand are in traffic areas such as by the buffet table or bar area. More people will be passing by that area, giving you more opportunities to connect with people.

5. If you see someone standing alone, start a conversation. They may be more uncomfortable than you are, and will likely appreciate it (but don’t mention that point!)

6. Make introductions. If someone else joins your conversation, introduce the person you’ve been speaking with. Share an interesting piece of information about them to the new person who’s joined the conversation.

7. Get names and use them. If you don’t already know the person you’re speaking with, make sure to get their name and use it in conversation with them. This will both help you build rapport and remember their name more easily.  

8. Relax. Relax and smile and enjoy the conversation as much as possible.

9. Really listen. When you’re in a conversation with someone, make eye contact, but don’t stare. Use your body language and follow up questions to show you’re listening and engaged.

10. Identify common interests. Conversation can be easier if you identify common interests to discuss. 

11. Giving a compliment is an easy conversation starter. If you’re having trouble knowing what to say, complementing someone on a piece of clothing or jewelry can be a great way to start a conversation with someone you’d like to talk with.

12. Make introductions to someone you know. If you believe someone you’ve met would benefit from knowing a friend of yours at the event, make the introduction.

13. Focus on the other person instead of yourself. It takes pressure off you – especially if you’re nervous – and helps you relax and enjoy learning more about the person you’re talking to.

14. Keep the conversation balanced. Do share about yourself, but keep the conversation balanced. 

15. Don’t monopolize a person’s time during the entire event. Keep in mind you each need the opportunity to meet and mingle with others.

16. Watch body language. If your conversation partner begins scanning the room, looking at his watch, or turning his body away as if he’s ready to leave the conversation, exit the conversation gracefully. You might say you’re going to get another drink, going to the toilet, or you need to look for a friend, and tell him you’ve enjoyed talking with him.

Related: How to Develop Emotionally Intelligent Leadership Skills

17. Be nice. Never gossip or talk negatively about others.

Related: 5 Ways to Instantly Build Rapport for Increased Trust and Improved Relationships

“The single greatest ‘people skill’ is a highly developed and authentic interest in the other person.”

Bob Burg

Summary

Not everyone starts out as a natural networker. Use these simple networking tips to make it feel more natural and easy.

With practice, you’ll come across as confident and polished in your networking skills! You’ll likely even help others feel more comfortable in their networking efforts, too!

If you’d like a list of great questions to ask to either start a conversation or keep one going, here’s a great list: 35 Conversation-Starter Questions for Social and Networking Events

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