Your complete guide to networking at events (with steps)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 12 September 2022
Published 27 April 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Networking can be a powerful and effective tool to get to know people in your chosen industry, whether you're hoping to find an entry-level job or move into a new sector or business. Attending networking events provides a way to meet professionals across various industries. By networking, you have the opportunity to make connections, showcase your skills and knowledge and gain recognition in your field. In this article, we look at what networking at events entails, how to network successfully and a few tips to help you achieve your goals in networking.
What is networking at events?
Networking at events can mean a few different things. Some events are specifically for networking, providing different businesses and industry professionals the opportunity to connect with others in their field. Other networking opportunities may be part of a bigger event, such as a trade show or awards evening where many different people in the same industry are in the same space. Virtual networking is also an option that some businesses or event organisers offer to mix with other professionals online from all over the world.
Whether networking events are specifically for networking activities or coincide with trade shows or professional seminars and training, the typical goal of attending these events is to gain connections and recognition in your particular field. For example, as a graduate, you may attend alumni networking events with industry professionals, allowing you to talk to employers in your field about potential opportunities that align with your skillset. Networking events for established professionals can also be an effective way for businesses to form partnerships or relationships with other companies or services in their niche.
How to network at events successfully
Networking successfully at events is a skill that many professionals develop with experience. As an event many industries use, the exact requirements and style of network events may be different, such as formal events held in the finance sector or more laid back events in creative fields, but many of the rules of etiquette still apply. Here are some of the steps you may choose to take to network successfully at an event:
1. Prepare ahead of time
Preparing yourself for networking events ahead of time can help you get more out of your connections with people. For example, if you own a decorating business, you may wish to connect with local estate agents or property management companies to co-promote your services. Reading through the guest list or looking at attendees on social media can give you an idea of who is in attendance, making it easier to find the people you want to meet.
Related: Networking tips for jobseekers
2. Select some relevant conversation topics
Starting a conversation can be challenging if you're new to networking, particularly when approaching groups of people instead of a single person. If you can join in the existing conversation, this can help you integrate with the group and open up communication with the people you'd like to talk to. Reading up on industry trends or news can provide effective conversation topics and allow you to understand and continue conversations to form valuable connections.
3. Have confidence in your introductions
Networking events typically allow you to communicate with anyone in attendance. This approach may feel more difficult with CEOs and high-up professionals in your field, but having the confidence to start a conversation with the person in the room you consider most important can be an effective tool. Choosing a relevant conversation topic and speaking on the same level can help you build your confidence over time, making each networking event easier for you.
4. Ask as many questions as you answer
Ensuring conversation and dialogue are flowing is an integral part of effective networking. Much like any other conversation, asking and answering questions can be more effective at connecting to people than small talk. Encouraging other people to continue a topic by asking questions or expressing interest can be effective in learning more about them and providing a way for people to know more about you. If you've already researched the person ahead of time, asking questions about their work, projects or recent accomplishments can be an excellent place to start.
5. Be clear and honest about what you want
Most people attending networking events are there for similar reasons, to connect with other professionals and find potential opportunities. Being honest about why you're at an event can provide connections with valuable information about what you're hoping to get out of your connection with them, which can also let them know what is beneficial about connecting with you. For example, if you're looking for a job in a particular field, being transparent can let that person know you're available for work, which is valuable to them if they are looking for a new hire with your skills and experience.
6. Provide points of contact if necessary
Connections you form at networking events are most valuable when you follow them up. A simple business card with contact information can provide a way for professionals to get in touch with you again later. Following an event, you could also find people you've spoken to on professional social media channels to connect with them further. In some cases, events offer a dedicated list of attendees with contact information or social media details for your use.
7. Exit the conversation on a high note
The pace of networking is often slow, making it difficult to leave a conversation politely to have time to talk to everyone you want to. One option is to bring other people into a group conversation. If you prefer to chat with someone else, you can end a conversation by handing over a business card or asking how to connect in the future. You can also use details of your conversation to close out a discussion, such as asking them to let you know how an upcoming project works out for them.
8. Network with a wide range of people at an event
Researching and pinpointing the people you want to talk to at an event is valuable in having a goal and direction, but it's also important to branch out. Connecting with people that are not on your 'list' can provide you with opportunities or interesting conversations you may not expect. For example, an experienced professional may be able to provide advice and guidance on a particular situation even if they don't work within your specific niche or goal industry.
Tips for finding networking events
Networking events are common in various industries and fields, from creative niches to corporate sectors. Finding the right event can be valuable in gaining new opportunities and improving your visibility and recognition in your particular field.
Here are a few tips for finding networking events that are relevant to you:
Join organisations in your industry
Many industries have various training organisations, membership groups and conference sessions that you can sign up for to form connections with others in your specific field. Some organisations may be free, while others may have a sign-up cost or membership fee to help fund particular events and activities. Researching organisations in your industry may provide a way to find networking events that are highly relevant to your specific field and goals.
Attend alumni events
If you've graduated from university and are working in a relevant industry to your degree, attending alumni events may allow you to connect with others in your field. Alumni networking is an effective way to connect professionally with people you may have known personally before, such as the people you attended university with. You may also have access to a broader selection of alumni who graduated before and after you to network with.
Check trade publications and industry news
Trade publications, newsletters and online magazines are effective ways to find out about upcoming events in your sector or field. More prominent publications may host their own events, while smaller platforms report on local activities and information to help you find opportunities to network. Some publications also offer event calendars, providing an overview of events coming in the next year to allow you to plan effectively.
Find social media groups
Social media is a powerful tool for networking, with people often using work-related social media platforms to make initial connections between professionals. Many event organisers offer specific groups or pages for networking events, allowing attendees to get to know each other beforehand. Some events may also include digital ice breakers or chances to interact ahead of the event, making social media effective in targeting your networking ahead of time.
Speak to your industry connections
If you already have connections or partnerships in your industry, speaking to the people you know can provide access to networking events. More experienced professionals or people with contacts in the industry may have access to exclusive information about events that are less available to the general public. You may be able to receive an invite to less publicly available events as a guest or friend of a recognised industry expert.
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