As much as I enjoy attending all sorts of events, I am definitely not an “in person networker” by nature. Some people seem to be able to move through the room spending a couple of minutes chatting to each person, whether they’re someone they’ve met before or a new connection. They go home and without any effort remember all of the names, connect with all of the attendees of the event, adding tens of new contacts to their existing network.
I’m not one of them. I struggle to recognise people’s faces if I’ve only seen them in photos before. I have a hard time remembering all the names if I meet a group of people all at once and in the culture I come from, small talk isn’t really a thing. If that wasn’t enough, I’m quite shy and having to walk up to a perfect stranger to start a conversation is pretty much my worst nightmare.
All of that being said, recruitment events are something I really enjoy and as I keep attending them, I found a couple of tricks that help me overcome my natural limitations.
Whenever you decide to go to an event, there are two main aspects to consider: what will be discussed and who else is going. There will be people there you want to catch up with and new connections to make, so why not find out in advance who they are? You may be able to check who will be attending the event through the registration website (on eventbrite, for example), or just check social media for those who have used the dedicated hashtag. Once you do that, decide what 2-3 people you’d like to catch up with and what 2-3 people you’ll want to introduce yourself to. The list doesn’t have to be too long (it shouldn’t, really), but it will help direct your networking efforts a little. Alternatively, let others know you’re going, perhaps you’re on one of their lists as well 🙂
You can easily find plenty of Twitter lists created for those attending different events. But a lot of them are automated (which means they include anyone who used the dedicated hashtag) and so instead of helping you get to the most relevant updates they just seem to add more noise. You can subscribe to them if you’d like, but you can also create one of your own to include people that you’ve actually interacted with. You can start one before the event, to add people you already know and you can add more people during or after the event. Believe me, these come in handy when the list of attendees has over 400 names on it (like it did at RecFest this year)!
LinkedIn is not the easiest platform to navigate sometimes… but there are ways around that. For example, you can use Hello Talent to organise your connections to then quickly sort through them. I’ve started using tags to keep track of everyone I met at events – whether we were connected before or we just connected after meeting face to face. Those who personalise invites on LinkedIn often let me know themselves when and where we’ve met, I also help myself by happily accepting business cards at the event. The next day, I sit down and connect with every person who handed me their business card to make sure I don’t miss anyone. I also check whether there’s anyone on my Twitter list that I’ve missed, connect with them on LinkedIn and tag accordingly in Hello Talent.
There’s a lot of other things you can do to make sure you get the most out of networking events, these are just some of my favourites. Whether you find them useful will probably depend on what you struggle with the most – perhaps all of this comes quite naturally to you and so you don’t really need any tricks to help. But if you do, I’m curious what they are, so feel free to share in the comments 🙂
Excellent post – and one point I would add is that, when meeting people in person, to remember the following things
a) Even those who appear to be completely at ease may be equally shy – networking to strangers is definitely a learnt skill for many (I speak from experience!)
b) People are there because they want to talk to the other people who are there – so don’t be afraid to start chatting to someone (provided you’re not rude/interrupting them of course)
c) Don’t leap in with your “pitch” – start with normal conversational pleasantries such as “I’ve not been to this event before – do you come to it regularly?”
This is a great comment Simon, this is exactly what the post was missing 🙂