I’ve never been the biggest fan of networking events. They seem forced, awkward, and I never quite got the point of having small talk with strangers. But after pushing myself, I have to admit, I changed my attitude.
How did this transformation take place?
First, I registered and attended a couple different events a week for a month straight. The key was variety – some events were focused on technology, some philanthropic (the Big Brothers, Big Sisters gala was awesome!), some were sponsored by my Alma Mater (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), there was a meetup with people in my neighborhood and I attended a few general, professional networking events around the city of Chicago.
Bottomline: It took commitment, open-mindedness and finding different types of events to keep things interesting.
Results: I now know what to look for in value-driven networking commitments and I discovered some surprising benefits along the way.
Unexpected benefits of my networking challenge.
Networking events provide an opportunity to improve your public speaking and presentation skills. Need to polish up your elevator pitch? No better place than a networking event to practice; remember to talk about how your product or service stands out from the rest without sounding like a sales pitch.
Have a big interview coming up? Networking events offer a great place to work on eye contact, asking relevant questions, and telling your story in an interesting and to-the-point manner.
You’ve seen a company’s name around, but you really don’t know what they do. Many events have a sponsor or an organization that hosts the event. Pay attention to featured speakers, keynotes or panels to learn more about a field you might staff for, but not know all the intricacies of.
Looking at implementing a new tool for your recruitment kit? Don’t dismiss ‘lunch and learns’ or demos, they provide a great opportunity to network with your peers while discovering new products and services.
Check out new places, try new appetizers. Some of my favorite events have been hosted at tech offices and coworking spaces…and don’t forget the occasional Cubs game. I’ve also gotten to try a few new bars and restaurants along my networking journey. Many newer establishments offer discounts to groups just to get their name out and people in the door. If you are looking for a location to host an event, don’t hesitate to approach the new spot on the block or if your office is accommodating for a group, host an event on your home turf.
It’s amazing what professionals can do when they band together for a cause. Whether it’s raising dollars or awareness, events like T4Youth and organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago offer a chance to work with each other, not just network.
I encourage you, whether you are a ‘networker’ or not, to never stop networking.
Networking events provide a great way to meet interesting people, sure the small talk can be awkward, but remember, it’s awkward for the person on the other side of the conversation as well.
Sure, each person that you talk to may not end up being a great business resource, but it could lead to discovering a mutual interest, learning something new about a field outside of your own, or even meeting a new friend!
The next time you find yourself dreading that upcoming networking event, remember that every single encounter can lead to something positive. Since frequenting networking events, I’ve grown to tolerate and even enjoy them! Just head in with a positive outlook and a goal and you too might have a change in networking attitude.
Ryan Swartzendruber, Technical Recruiter for Objective Paradigm’s Talution Group, recruits on both contract and direct hire positions in addition to his Account Manager responsibilities. Ryan’s focus is on the financial and software industries where he consistently meets clients needs by identifying and placing talent to help businesses scale. Connect with Ryan on LinkedIn.