What are networking events? (With definition and types)
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Networking plays a key role in many industries by allowing professionals to meet, connect and build meaningful and healthy professional relationships with their peers. They're great opportunities for you to share who you are and what you do while also allowing you to gain valuable contacts and information that you can use at work or in your future job searches. Understanding what networking events are can allow you to identify and make the most out of these opportunities. In this article, we answer 'What are networking events?' and look at 11 types of networking events that can advance your career.
What are networking events?
In answer to 'What are networking events?', they're organised gatherings that encourage professionals to meet and engage with one another to build valuable connections. While each event you attend may look different, they all have one common goal, which is to allow attendees to build professional connections. Networking events normally cover a specific market or field, which ensures that you network with other people within the same industry.
Attending these events can significantly contribute to your ability to succeed in your career as they give you access to information and resources that are useful for career advancement. Generally, this means that it's beneficial for career professionals to attend as many networking events as possible.
Related: Networking tips for job seekers
11 types of networking events
Below are 11 types of networking events that can help to advance your career:
1. Industry-specific events
Industry-specific events allow you to meet and connect with people that work in roles that are similar or related to your own. These events typically feature speakers and experts in your field, who can provide you with valuable industry knowledge. One of the main advantages of attending industry-specific events is that you're likely to gain skills and information that are directly relevant to your line of work, alongside gaining valuable contacts that already work in your preferred industry.
You can find industry-specific networking events by subscribing to industry news outlets or following experts in your field on social media. When attending these events, ensure that you exchange professional social media profiles and business cards with anyone you meet during the event so you can remain in close contact.
2. Happy-hour networking events
Happy-hour networking events refer to when professionals meet in a more casual and informal environment, such as a restaurant. During these types of events, attendees interact in small groups and talk about their careers and goals over drinks and appetisers. Happy-hour networking events usually have a host who shares a short speech that outlines the event's goals before welcoming everyone. As these events are more relaxed, they eliminate some of the stress that's associated with networking, which can help you to interact with others more clearly and confidently.
3. Career fairs
Career fairs are recruiting events where hiring managers, recruiters and hiring organisations meet with potential employees. They're also known as careers expos or job fairs and they allow prospective employees to find out more about job openings in their field of interest. If you're actively looking for jobs, career fairs are a great opportunity to learn more about a potential employer's goals and what roles they're looking to fill.
When attending these events, try to use this opportunity to create a good first impression by speaking to recruiters one-on-one and sharing information about yourself and why you think you're an ideal fit for their organisation. Before attending any career fair, it's a good idea to spend some time preparing your pitch and researching the organisations in attendance. The reason for this is that a recruiter may interview you on the spot so if you're well-prepared you can improve your chances of securing a new role.
4. University or college events
Universities or colleges often bring in industry leaders and experts to speak to students and share their knowledge and expertise. These events are a great opportunity to connect with professionals and make valuable connections that you can use in the future. If you're still studying or are a recent graduate, you can find these types of networking events by looking on the institution's social media channels, completing an online search or contacting the institution's careers office. To ensure that you get the most useful contacts, it's advisable to attend events that are directly related to your preferred field.
5. Roundtable discussions
Roundtable discussions are networking events that allow professionals in the same field to meet and freely share their ideas, knowledge and perspectives. They're led by a facilitator who ensures that everyone gets a chance to speak and contribute to the conversation.
If you're looking to hone your skills, learn more about your chosen field and advance in your career, you can consider attending roundtable discussions. Since the people involved in these discussions share similar career goals and interests, these events can be a good opportunity for you to quickly learn from your peers, get new ideas and gain useful information. Roundtable discussions are quite intimate and involve a smaller group, so they're best suited to individuals that enjoy making and are willing to provide contributions to group discussions.
Webinars are online networking events that connect professionals from around the world. In a webinar, organisations share information in an online space about a specific topic and attendees ask questions and engage with other like-minded people. During these events, you can also live chat, answer polls and view slides.
Webinars are easy to register for and you can participate in them from anywhere in the world, as long as you have a stable Internet connection. This makes them a highly effective way of connecting with your peers in your chosen field and can be a great way of gaining useful connections. You can find webinars by conducting an online search or following leading organisations within your preferred industry on social media. It's vital to note that while most webinars are free, some may require you to pay a fee to participate.
Workshops are similar to webinars, with the main difference being that they can happen online or in person. Most workshop events are face-to-face, which allows you to personally meet and connect with peers who share similar interests and career goals. They focus on teaching and imparting information and can help you to hone your skills and build connections. If you're nervous about networking in larger groups, attending a workshop might be an ideal choice for you. They're typically quite intimate events that involve smaller groups, which can provide you with a chance to interact with everyone in attendance.
A conference is a formal meeting of peers that have a shared interest, where they discuss issues and ideas relating to a specific topic and impart valuable information. There are three types of conferences you can attend, including:
Academic. This is a gathering of academic professionals and scientists, where people present research and findings.
Business. This is a meeting held by people that work in the same industry or company. They meet to discuss new opportunities and industry trends.
Trade. This networking event takes place on a larger scale and involves members of the public, vendors, companies and businesses. They consist of workshops, white paper presentations and discussions that are usually conducted by industry experts and leaders.
9. Breakfast or lunch meetings
Breakfast or lunch meetings are another relaxing and casual networking event you can attend. For these events, you get to meet and connect with other professionals over a meal. Although the purpose of a breakfast or lunch meeting can vary, they're ideal for building relationships and sharing ideas on specific topics or important subjects. Some event organisers also invite industry experts to speak, which means you can potentially learn something new and gain a skill by attending.
10. Speed networking
Speed networking is an event where industry professionals rapidly share information and knowledge within a set period. These meetings aim to accelerate the networking process by allowing you to connect and exchange business cards with as many professionals as possible. In speed networking events, you speak one-on-one with another peer and, after a certain amount of time, you move on to the next person.
Due to the nature of these events, it's essential to succinctly share vital information about yourself, including what you do, alongside asking a few brief questions. When attending these events, make sure that you find the time to share your contact information, during these brief interactions, so that these professionals can reach you at a later date for further discussions.
11. Virtual groups
Virtual groups are online spaces that allow professionals from a particular industry to network. For these events, industry experts organise discussions and online presentations by using video conferencing software. These events may also involve holding live Q&A sessions, where you ask industry leaders specific questions, which allows you to gain insight on specialist topics. Joining a virtual group helps you become part of an online community that shares the same interests and values as you. You can also gain access to email newsletters and information on different networking events to attend.
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