How To Be Memorable At Networking Events

May 24, 2017

I’m working with an amazing client at the moment. She’s smart, successful, passionate and ambitious. Unfortunately, like so many who don’t realise how incredibly talented they are,  she struggles to see and appreciate her brilliance. I’m honoured to be working with her and watch her step out of the shadows and step into her light.

Do You Know How Brilliant You Are?

I’ve no doubt that you too know colleagues, friends or loved ones who are amazing at what they do and are great people too. But they don’t realise it. Often because they’re so good at what they do, they make it look effortless. They underestimate their skills and capabilities and their impact on the world.  I’ve noticed that when people are working in an organisation for a long time or are feeling stuck in their career, their confidence can be very low. They’re often unsure of what they can do to change their circumstances. When organisations are going through restructures or downsizing, it’s common that senior employees can feel very vulnerable. Having been incredibly loyal to a company for a large portion of their working lives, they experience very real feelings of fear of the future, fear of the unknown.

Change Is Hard

And if I can share with you that this is more common than most people realise. I’ve seen grown adults well up in tears in front of me. It’s humbling. For some, it’s the first time they’ve opened up about how they’re really feeling. Knowing they have a safe place where they won’t be judged allows them to share their emotions, worries and concerns. It’s the first step in moving forward. Until we acknowledge our fears we’ll never accept them nor take action to change them. And this is essential if we want to ensure that the next phase of our career is the best yet. And after all, isn’t that what we all want?

There's More Than One Way To Find Your Next Role

As you’ll have heard me say before in previous articles, there’s more than one way to find your next role. And one of the most important is tapping into your network. But here’s the challenge facing my client. She’s never had to attend a networking event before and the thought of it terrifies her. “I’m not a salesperson Michelle”, she said. “I’ve never had to go to a networking event before and I wouldn’t know what to do or what to say.”  Now here’s the interesting thing. This client has stood up in front of groups of colleagues and presented to clients, and this hasn’t phased her one bit. The real problem is having to talk to a stranger. How do you start a conversation? What do you say to someone you don’t know and have never met before?

There are lots of online tutorials and blog posts written on how to prepare yourself for a networking event, and some share really helpful and practical steps to take. But in this article I wanted to share just one, but which I think is the most important and will change your experience of networking forever. And this is the tip I shared with my client:

Imagine that the event you’re going to is full of interesting people. Your aim is to talk to some of them and find out what makes them interesting.

When I shared this with my client she was looking at me in disbelieve. “You mean I don’t have to sell anything or try and impress others. I don’t have to worry about researching what company they work with or try and remember their name and job title. It sounds like I have to do very little work.” And that’s the secret. You don’t have to do any work. Because seeing a networking event like work will only lead you to avoid attending such events. On the other hand, if you view them as a room full of interesting people you’re more likely to look forward to it, and also to engage with more people who are present. Let the other person talk about themselves, but most importantly, ask them this simple question: “What do you love to do in your spare time? What gets you fired up?”

 Asking this question takes people off-guard. They stop and think. They begin to relax. When they realise that they don’t have to talk about work either, they’ll happily share stories about their hobbies and interests with you. You’ll listen as they open up about what excites them and their passion. And I can honestly share with you that this results in a much more engaging and authentic connection for both parties. Not only will the conversation be memorable but you will also be memorable to the other person - because you were different. By being more genuine and interested in the person, you too come across as more interesting.

In this world where it’s so easy to connect in the digital world, let us not forget the importance of connecting in the real world. No one can be successful on their own. And to tweak a famous quote by Robyn Benincasa, World Champion Adventure Racer: “You don’t inspire by showing how amazing you are. You inspire them by showing them how amazing they are.”

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