You’re standing in the corner of a bar, desperately clutching your closest acquaintance and fistful of vodka. This is not what networking should look like, but, damn, this place makes a mean martini. There’s a choice in front of you – continue developing a drinking problem or turn your talents towards how to network. It’s an industry mixer. Mix.
DON’T GO WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Go with one other person, then divide and conquer. It’s easier to invade a conversation as one person than with a group of four friends. Going from one group to the next by yourself has a few benefits. If you get stuck without anyone to talk to, look for your friend across the room. Walk over and tap them out of their conversation or join in.
The other option is to approach people as a duo. Just don’t huddle in a corner and debate who to talk to for 40 minutes. I’ve done that. It’s incredibly ineffective. Rip the Band-Aid off. Don’t pull at it for 3 hours.
TWO DRINK LIMIT
You want something to eliminate that awkward feeling of “what do I do with my hands?” But don’t drink past the point of no return. Instead of trusting your instincts, limit your alcohol consumption by a finite amount.
CONFIDENCE IS KEY
If you don’t seem confident or take yourself seriously, why would anyone else? As they say, fake it till you make it. Present yourself in a confident manner without judging yourself. Everyone has hard feelings about themselves. Even textbook successful people teeter between thinking they’re hot shit and plain old shit. Don’t let your feelings get in the way of how you project yourself and what you’re trying to accomplish.
PLAN YOUR INTRODUCTION
Try hard so it doesn’t seem like you’re trying that hard. Plan your introduction. This is great for nervous or socially awkward people. That way when someone asks the famed “so what do you do?” then you can answer with something other than “um” or “things.”
Try any combination of…
Your Education + Your Job + Your Skill Set + What You’re Working On + What You’re Trying To Get Into
MAKE AN IMPRESSION
There are two parts to this. First, focus on the other person. Actually listen to what they’re saying. Everyone has their own path, their own interests, and their reason for being there. Find out what those things are. They might not be compatible with your desires, but that’s not the immediate point. What? Why not? Because you want to make genuine connections with people. Who knows, they might have a friend who is doing what you want to do or maybe you do something their friend wants to do. Also, you’re NOT spending 10 minutes with every person. This is a networking event. Meet everyone – get in and out – 5 minutes max. No one is wasting anyone’s time.
The second part of this is how to be memorable in five minutes or less. I have yet to master this. It can be easy to focus too much on the other person in a way that detracts from the point of networking. They talk for five minutes and then walk away. So while I know someone’s life story, I was merely five minutes of free therapy. When we meet again three months later, it’s apparently so nice to meet me. Yeah, Chad who works in accounting with a sick pet tortoise, Hank, and an emotional complex linked to his withdrawn mother, nice to meet you, too.
Find something you connect on. Speak up whether this is someone you want kick it with or not. Practice the art of balancing assertion with listening. You’ll find that most people lean one way or the other.
KEEP UP YOUR CONTACTS
Not everyone uses business cards. We have our phones. We add people on Facebook or LinkedIn. The point of exchanging information is not so that other people have your info, it’s so you have theirs. Follow up a couple days after the networking event. In L.A., it’s standard to ask someone to drinks. That’s something that sounded weird to me when I first started out. it’s not weird; it’s common place. Don’t feel self-conscious about it. If you wait too long to follow up after the industry mixer or social event, it can be less effective. Set a reminder in your phone or on your calendar to bang out your follow ups.