As we approach the end of summer, conference season is starting up. If attending a networking event and entering a room wondering how to start a conversation makes you nervous, fear not! Networking doesn’t have to be daunting — it can be fun and rewarding.
Make Connections Online First
Start your networking before your business meeting or conference using social media. Use a strong and professional online presence to cultivate meaningful connections with colleagues and people you would love to get to know and learn from. Twitter chats are great ways to get your name out there and find interesting contacts you’d like to meet in person.
How do you find a Twitter chat? Many conferences have official hashtags for use by attendees. For instance, the Academy’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™ uses #fnce. Scan those who have tweeted using that hashtag and plan to meet up in Nashville! Or, find Twitter chats by following RDNs who use the hashtag #rdchat.
Then, when you finally meet in person, come prepared to listen, ask insightful questions and show how interested you are in others.
What to Do at a Networking Event
You already know to bring plenty of business cards to an event to exchange. But, just as importantly, be ready to share social media handles and your email address, too. In fact, why not pull out your smartphone and follow the person you’re speaking with right there! This way, you can continue your conversation after the meeting ends and deepen your relationship.
Sometimes, it can be hard to make a personal connection during a busy networking event. If you’re feeling nervous, take a deep breath and just be yourself. One word of warning, don’t approach contacts with a goal of getting something from them. Instead, think about how you can help and learn from them.
Remember, there is only one you in the world and you’re special and make a difference. If you relax and care about the person you’re talking to, great things will happen.