How to Get the Most Out of Networking Events
Networking. It’s amazing how one little word can inflict so much dread.
For many people, the thought of introducing themselves and pitching their business model to strangers is terrifying. It may be a happy territory for extroverts, but for naturally reserved, shy or introverted people, attending a networking event is a big step out of their comfort zone.
However, many of today’s business networking events are welcoming and inclusive. Hosts are supportive and helpful, and there’s often a structure to the event, which helps you to meet people without having to sidle awkwardly into conversations.
To help you feel at ease, here are a few tips we’ve learned from many years of working with business people and hosting networking events at UBC centres.
Listen First, Speak Later.
If you’re nervous, let others do the talking until you’ve had time to ‘warm up’. Ask a simple question like, ‘what do you do?’ or ‘how long have you been in business?’ and listen to your counterpart’s response. Be curious. Pay attention and ask questions - ‘where did you learn that?’ or ‘how did you resolve that particular challenge?’ - it’s a great way to keep the conversation moving.
Practice a Quick Pitch.
Nobody wants to listen to a long, drawn-out introduction. Practice a quick pitch of around 20 seconds that covers all the key points of your business. Unless it’s an industry-specific event, avoid jargon - you want to make your counterparts feel inclusive and interested, not confused and alienated.
Keep Your Business Cards Handy.
Even in our age of smartphones and Twitter handles, business cards still reign supreme at networking events. Have a little pack of business cards handy, in a top pocket or an easily accessible bag compartment. Scrabbling around in the bottom of your laptop bag only to fish out a dog-eared business card is awkward and unprofessional.
The idea of a business event is to move around and speak with different people. So if you find yourself getting stuck in a one-way conversation, have a back-up response to enable an easy exit.
- Use a common excuse, such as ‘Would you excuse me? I need to grab a coffee / make a call / speak to my colleague before the speaker starts’.
- Ask for a business card, or offer yours. Wrap up the conversation by saying, ‘It was great to talk to you / learn about your business. Let’s continue the conversation over email’ or ‘Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.’
- If you spot someone you recognise, bring them into the conversation. Introduce them to your counterpart and make your exit once the conversation has started.
Learn from Others.
As with every business experience, use your networking event as a learning curve. Pay attention to what others are doing, what they say and how they act. Use it as a learning experience for what to do (and what NOT to do) when attending your next networking event.
How to Find Local Networking Events
Now you have a few pointers to help you through the networking experience, it’s time to find an event to attend.
UBC hosts numerous business networking events each month, including Meetup Mondays at Rutherford House in Birchwood, and Henley Hub at Forward House in Henley-in-Arden. We also run regular Flexi Friday events, which offers a free day of coworking with the opportunity to network with others.
Every event includes a talk or a workshop with a local business expert, and short periods of networking with refreshments.
Keep an eye on our Events page for further details.
Through our partnership with Enterprise Nation, UBC clients can also attend business events organised by Enterprise Nation at half price.
The end goal with every business event is to give you support to grow your business, which could be in the form of specific skills, guidance, ideas or inspiration. They are also designed to help you make connections with people and form mutually beneficial relationships, be it a prospective client, a potential supplier, or even an investor.
Attend these events with these end goals in mind and remember that everyone is there with the same purpose as you: to grow their business. Keep that in mind and soon enough you’ll replace your feeling of dread with your natural entrepreneurial desire to grow your business.