Getting the most out of a networking event

Last week, I attend­ed a net­work­ing event, as a “dry run” for an upcom­ing push toward get­ting out there with our new con­sult­ing arm, ModPii. I observed some things that I found inter­est­ing, and would prob­a­bly be of use to oth­ers out there.

(tl;dr)

Networking for fun

The most impor­tant rule: have fun!  If you aren’t hav­ing fun, you will allow the pres­sures of the moment effect you.  It doesn’t mat­ter who you are, peo­ple enjoy a relaxed, fun demeanor more than a “get it done” one.

So, relax.  Have a snack.  Joke with peo­ple around you.  Talk about your hob­bies.  Have fun!

Maintain a personal brand

The logo that I use for this site and for the main House of Czetty site are an impor­tant part of our brand.  My per­son­al logo is a close match to my per­son­al style.  I am near­ly always found wear­ing a fedo­ra, and I pre­fer a bow tie when I wear one.

I was prob­a­bly over­dressed by some stan­dards, but the fedo­ra, bow tie, and bright col­ors made me stand out. Everybody I talked to had already noticed me, and they were inter­est­ed to talk to me from the moment we shook hands. Those that I have con­tact­ed or will con­tact in the future will like­ly remem­ber me and my mes­sage.

Don’t be desperate

Seriously, don’t walk in with the expec­ta­tion that you are going to walk out with a new client or a new job.  You should hope for some leads, maybe a fol­low-up inter­view or two, but that’s about it.

The par­tic­u­lar event I was attend­ing was a inter­view event, so I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sit down one-on-one with mul­ti­ple hir­ing man­agers, for short peri­ods of time.  I start­ed flat-out with my goal: to net­work and see what is out there.  As we spoke, I didn’t try to over­sell myself or my skills, I just told them a lit­tle bit about who I am, and what I do.

I could see the inter­view­ers I spoke with vis­i­bly relax, and we were able to have an hon­est con­ver­sa­tion free of the stress of either of us try­ing to sell any­thing.  I feel I gleaned a lot more about the com­pa­nies than I would have oth­er­wise, and I got a lot of gen­uine inter­est in my ser­vices in return.

Be yourself

You should put your best foot for­ward, but don’t be fake.  Success doesn’t come from being some­one you are not.  After all, who do you know bet­ter?  Yourself, or some­one you made up?  (I’ll give you a pass if you’re a fic­tion writer.)  Networking is about adding your­self to a group, not becom­ing anoth­er cog.  Remember that poten­tial clients or employ­ers are look­ing for good com­pli­ments to their team, not clones.

I find it dif­fi­cult, at times, to just be myself in events like these, and I am tempt­ed to build a per­sona for the per­son in front of me.  This puts stress on me, and it also puts it on oth­ers.  Nobody is going to have much fun, and some might be active­ly turned off.

tl;dr

To sum it up:

  • First and fore­most: have fun and don’t let your­self be intim­i­dat­ed.
  • Do some­thing that stands out, per­haps by dress­ing in a sig­na­ture way, hav­ing a catch phrase, or doing some­thing else that is unique­ly you.
  • Have an agen­da, but don’t make it so preva­lent that you come off as des­per­ate.
  • Do not try to be some­one you are not, or con­form to the expec­ta­tions of oth­ers.  You are unique­ly you, and you must nev­er for­get that.

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