Whether you like it or not, you know networking is important. And you are not alone.
IABC/BC event evaluations show that 90 to 100% of respondents consistently say that they choose to attend our events for the in-person networking opportunities. Who you know can be essential to your career development and your job hunt.
Many jobs are never advertised and are only accessible through connections. It is estimated that 50 to 80% of some of these jobs are “hidden”. Whether you are in an established in-house role or an entrepreneurial consultant, a vibrant network is key for all communicators.
Try out these three simple tips to optimize your networking at future IABC/BC events
1) Do your research ahead of time (fortune favours the prepared mind)
Investigate who will be at the event and think about who you want to meet the most.
The IABC/BC website makes it easy to find this information. For our upcoming events, simply click “Cancel” on the registration page, and then “See who’s attending” for a current list of registrants.
Note any interesting companies, industries or titles, and consider taking a quick look at those attendees’ LinkedIn profiles (if this feels a bit creepy for you, browse while logged out). Scan the attendees’ Twitter or check out their company websites. Plan a few questions you might want to ask about them. For example, you could ask about their work, or check if you share any common interests (mutual connections, or the same alma mater).
Arming yourself with some background knowledge can help boost your confidence and optimize your networking time.
2) Talk about what you care about (professional ≠ passionless)
Once you’re at the event, remember that everyone else is looking for a fun, engaging connections too. Luckily for many of us, our work as communicators tends to overlap with our passions.
While IABC/BC is a professional association, don’t feel restricted to work-only topics. Try swapping the default “…So, what do you do?” for some more unique questions (there are countless lists of great conversation starters).
Talking travel and upcoming holidays, hobbies (trail running, baking, scuba diving, crafting), family (and pets!), movies, books, TV and even the weather (Vancouverites actually love the weather) all offer valuable opportunities to connect on a deeper level.
3) Follow up (seriously, follow up)
Follow-up is the most crucial and overlooked step of in-person networking. Although the medium might vary, the simple act of touching base after making a connection is key.
Most simply, you can connect on LinkedIn. Add a quick personal note and maybe reference something you talked about (“It was good to meet you at the event last night! Thanks for all your tips on winter camping”).
Then, close with your next step. If you don’t have anything particular in mind, you could simply say, “Let’s stay connected on LinkedIn”. But, you could also initiate a coffee meeting, or take them up on something they offered (e.g. if they mentioned they could facilitate an introduction). Other options are to follow them on Twitter, send a quick email, or connect on any other social/digital platform.
Next, have a system in place to help you manage and keep track of your growing network. For many, LinkedIn works well. But, having a slightly more sophisticated system can be a huge advantage. Some use Evernote (with a system of tagging), others use free services such as Nudge.ai, Boomerang or Followup.cc for reminders to keep in touch with their networks.
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You don’t need to wait until you can build a comprehensive personal network management database. Try experimenting with some simple, imperfect systems now.