Back in June, we emphasized the importance of networking for independent contractors and posted a few tips to get started. “Be prepared for every event” is crucial to getting the most out of networking, so with that in mind, consider these 6 tips when preparing for your next networking event:
Set yourself a goal, or a couple of goals. Your goal may be about the number of people you want to meet — if it is a sizable group then talking with 10 people might be possible. To get a “connection” with 2 of them would be a good outcome. Or, your goal may be about the type of people you’d like to connect with. Do you want to introduce yourself to new recruiters? Meet the executive of your current or future clients? Find like-minded contractors as potential partners?
Remember the point of the event. It is not a social event, it is a networking event and you want to meet as many people as possible. It is important to be able to disengage from those people who “cling” to you, your colleagues and even those people you really “connect” with, in order to meet more people.
One idea: “It’s been great talking with you and I would really enjoy continuing our conversation, but I promised myself I would meet lots of people here tonight. Can I call you and plan to get together when we have more time to talk?”
People like to talk about themselves so get them talking. Go armed with questions that will achieve this.
Who do you work for?
How long have you been there?
Have you been in the field long?
Have you been a member of this organization long?
What do you think of this event?
Once the conversation goes then it becomes easier to keep going as you find topics of mutual interest.
Note: You may be surprised that you can get everyone talking a lot, but no one will ask about yourself! This is good. They will remember you as an interesting person because you showed interest in them. Mission accomplished.
Gauge people’s body language as you approach them. You will know if they are going to be open to talking very quickly. People that are by themselves are the easiest to approach. Groups of 3 or more are the next easiest, and will often “allow” you into their conversation. Do not try to approach two people engaged in a conversation, it is very difficult to break into a two person conversation.
Do not hang out with people you know. In fact, it is better to go to these events alone so that you are forced to mingle. Very often you will see two or three people from the same organization, or who know each other well, off together which is not much value to them from a networking perspective.
Take lots of business cards, and give them out. You’ll meet many people; some may be your next Recruiter/Client/Contracting Partner. You want to make sure they remember you and know how to contact you. But don’t trust them to do so, get their business card and write a small note on it to remember who they were.
Preparation is the key to success for contractors in so many ways, and networking is no different. If you start with a goal and work your plan, you will no doubt have a successful evening. Do you have any tips to add to our list?