Forbes Communication Council created the following 10 Networking Tips To Help You Make A Great First Impression At An Event article. I like their advice, and am going to add some suggestions and tips which are student- specific, to help you make the most of their suggestions.
"1. Build genuine personal connections.
Networking events are a bit like being set up on a blind date, and similar rules apply. Don't take over the conversation and talk about yourself and your business. People want to feel that you are genuinely interested in them. Ask questions to get to know the other person and understand what they do. As you build a personal connection, potential business opportunities often present themselves. - Hannah Taylor, Ironistic"
At a Career Fair or information session, company recruiters want to know that you are genuinely interested in their company, culture and position. Do your research prior to events so you can ask pertinent questions about developments within the company, products they are associated with, company culture, etc. Be prepared with a 30-second pitch about yourself too—what are the most important things you want that company to know about you and how you fit with what they do.
In addition to events, you can always connect with people via informational interviews—a brief, 20-30 minute phone call, Skype or email session which allows you to ask questions about their career path, day-to-day of their job, and other questions which help you understand them, their industry, and their position in ways which might be helpful to guide you in your own career decision-making.
Not only does smiling make it easier for people to connect with you because you are more open and welcoming, it also helps them remember you -- and your company. Show real interest in what the other person does and ask questions before talking about you. Your smile and authentic self will go a long way toward a positive first impression. - Melani Deyto, TextMarks"
I think this one stands alone. Be calm, be yourself, and show personality.
"3. Listen when you join a conversation, then show you were listening.
Take a few minutes to listen to the conversation when joining a group of people. An effective way to make a good first impression is to join a conversation with a comment that shows you were listening to the current group of people. Acknowledge a key point to add to the conversation rather than refocusing on you and your work. Nothing will stop a conversation faster. - Kiersten Williams, Walk West"
Yes, it can be difficult to walk up to a group of people in conversation and jump right in. But it’s a requirement at networking events, conferences, info sessions, etc. So learn to casually join, listen to the group, and add your thoughts about the current conversation—again, researching companies prior to events can really make this much easier, as you’ll have relevant facts to add, which also add to your credibility as a good candidate.
"4. Be yourself and don't try to sell.
I've found that the best approach for any networking event is to be myself and talk about my business in a casual, non-salesy way. When I discuss my business, I always try to share, not sell. I also do a bit of homework on which connections make sense for me to connect with so I am focusing my energy chatting with people who are relevant to my career and industry. - Lin Grosman, GoDataFeed.com"
Research who will be at an event before attending, and be strategic about with whom you connect. Having a plan will allow you to focus more on conversations than nervousness, because you’ll already have some thoughts on talking points ahead of time.
"5. Research attendees and come prepared with questions.
The best impressions are the ones that appear effortless. Approaching others too aggressively and not paying proper attention to the people and conversations around you can have a negative effect. Be prepared with questions that help you learn about others, hold mutually interesting conversations and make it easy to share what you want to about yourself or your business when it's appropriate. - Kriselle Laran, Zeno Group"
See my thoughts on #4.
"6. Bring a friend.
If you are able to attend an event with someone you know from another company, it is great to meet people together–that way you can talk each other up. It can be so hard to boast about yourself and your firm’s accomplishments, but your friend from another company can do that for you and vice versa. - Sherry Jhawar, Blended Strategy Group"
Do not, however, stay stuck to that person throughout the event and miss out on making new connections or talking to other people. Working together with a friend is a good strategy but will not benefit you as a security blanket.
"7. Be curious.
People love to talk about themselves. The key to making a great first impression is to be curious about the other person. Asking a thoughtful question (having done your homework on the attendees first) is a great way to put others at ease and demonstrate your listening skills. The more interested you are in others, the more interesting you become. - Tracey Grove, Microsoft"
"8. Introduce yourself with an anecdote that resonates.
We all have that one line or story about what we love about what we do and what our company does. Make your intro spiel personal. People will see you are genuine and it will resonate. - Kat Krieger, Joyride Coffee Distributors"
Once again, see that 30-second elevator pitch. Know what makes you stand out or interesting in your experience, involvement, or personality and share it.
"9. Learn how you can help each new connection.
Networking is a powerful way to build business connections, but it’s important that your objective in meeting new people isn’t self-serving. Be authentic, ask questions and start every conversation hoping to learn, “How can I help?” Something as simple as offering to make a helpful introduction goes a long way in leaving a positive impression and will often lead to long-term relationships. - Robyn Hannah, Dynamic Signal"
Networking is not a one-way street! While you might not feel you have a lot to contribute right now, in the future you can be useful to someone who helps you now. Get contact info from people, keep in touch, and update them on your experiences, job search, or projects.
"10. Go in without a strict agenda and try to make a new friend.
Networking events can be intimidating, awkward and loaded with pressure. If you go into it with the intention of getting new leads or gathering X amount of business cards, it's likely to become uncomfortable. I was recently given the best networking advice: Be authentic and simply try to make a new friend. This takes the pressure off, allows you to be yourself and leads to stronger connections. - Tanya Carlsson, Offleash"
Make a goal ahead of time with how many meaningful conversations you want to have at an event. It might just be one, or some other number that’s appropriate to you. Don’t try to talk to everyone or overwhelm yourself…a few meaningful connections mean more and are more helpful than many superficial contacts.
We recommend Forbes as a reliable source for career and networking advice -check it out.
Don’t be afraid of networking. Start small, build your skills, and soon these events will become much more comfortable. Preparation, research, and the right attitude make all the difference! Here are some other Career Center tips for networking outside of an established event.