Those who regularly attend conferences, seminars and workshops know of their importance, whether for their learning opportunities, or because of the potential to make new contacts. Some even argue that the added value of any on-site event indeed lies in the contacts established.
With this in mind, we are going to tackle an important topic: the far-reaching web we are weaving and that can guide us towards a specific goal, opening our horizons to opportunities with the potential to expand the resources available to us.
The first step in this potentially enriching experience is the approach. Whilst for some people, starting a conversation with strangers comes naturally, for others, it´s comparable to performing a blindfolded bungee jump. For those belonging to the latter category, I have some ideas to share. First: you are not alone, we are all in the same boat. The remainder that follow are based on my experience, and could become useful for future networking opportunities:
1 - Reverse your ‘elevator pitch,’ but don't limit yourself to a mere introduction. Always show interest in the other person's work, in their country of origin, or any feedback they offer on a certain subject;
2 - Have your business card at the ready, though don't present it until the end of the conversation, or until you receive one from the other person.
3 - However short the conversation, always remember to smile;
4 - Always send personalised follow-up emails (resist the temptation to ‘copy/paste’), in which you can recap the key points of the contact, possibly make a proposal or show interest in a collaboration;
5. Even outside of our working environment, there are countless occasions that are conducive to networking. What's to stop you telling the mechanic, the florist or the next-door neighbour what you do for a living? Tell them, be brave. They'll remember you the next time they need translator. Whether you carry out the work or recommend another professional, you will always be the one who helped them solve their problem.
Relax, enjoy these opportunities for interaction and remember, the person who is listening is probably just as nervous as you. Has that ever occurred to you?