How to: Networking

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Networking events can be intimidating. Even when you already KNOW that everyone is there for the same reason, and probably just as nervous as you. But, you have to admit, networking is one of the greatest (& free!) tools at your disposal. So, with Railtex around the corner, we’re serving up some lessons in how YOU can make the most of networking opportunity when it knocks…

Why should I bother?

Success is frequently, and rightfully, associated with how well you can market not only your business but yourself. And in the continuing era of the ‘who you know’ dominating the ‘what’, the process of building and fostering new relationships within your preferred field remains crucial. 

Railtex/Infrarail’s upcoming expo is highlighting this, with a dedicated ‘Matchmaking’ portion of the event. This actively encourages exhibitors and attendees to mingle, to converse, to foster new relationships, and strengthen existing ones, connecting thousands of contacts all involved within the rail supply chain.  We’ll be there, so please come and try out your new networking techniques on us!

The How

Prep good & proper

Consider what you’re trying to achieve before attending the event. Are you trying to broaden your network? Get a new job? 

Who is your target audience? Often you can access a list of attendees, at least on a company level, preceding the event–give it a read, and make note of who you’d especially like to talk to. 

Pick a tangential niche; sounds very scientific but basically how can you talk about work-related interests without talking directly about work? What interests or hobbies do you have that at least loosely connect to your occupation? 

Get that elevator pitch ready and raring to go! An elevator speech is essentially a 15-45 second professional summation of yourself, which should act to inform, intrigue, and spark further conversation. The key elements of any EP are:

  • Quick introduction: who are you, and what do you do? Be engaging, hook ‘em in
  • Sum up experience/qualifications & career goals: what are your specialisms, what qualifies you as a person to KNOW
  • Highlight unique qualities: what shared interests or extensive knowledge area do you share with the individual? What about your job do you LOVE to talk about?
  • Ask a question/Ending line to provoke action: For example: "If you have some time, I would love to meet with you in person to hear more about your organization." Or, you can say something like, “Would you be able to put me in contact with the person in charge of business development so I can tell them more about what I can offer your company?”

During the event

Concision is Key: the shorter your interaction, typically the better. 5-10 minutes is the ideal duration. You’re just trying to spark a connection, and to enable some form of follow up, not make up for decades of never having spoken to them–chill.

Focus on the connection, not the sale. Being all business will irritate people, trust us. Show people throughout that they’re not just another LinkedIn add to your collection; learn about them, actively listen, and be personable. 

Break away from your comfort zone. Not to be peak, but if you came with someone else you should probably ditch them (mutually of course) asap–the purpose of networking events is not to cement your friendships or hang out with the people you see everyday. Get chatting, and go it solo. 

General social etiquette–makes sense right? Don’t bombard people with your business card, don’t ambush anyone at the entrance or the snack table. Be confident and approachable but not aggressive. 

Look for ways to pay it forward. What we mean by this is to look out for opportunities to connect others with shared interests/objectives from the event–”hey, ____, have you had a chance to speak to ____ yet?”. Easy.

The Aftermath

It’s not over until it’s over. And those new connections won’t nurture themselves. Ensure you have a solid follow-up plan after making the first impression. Will you add them on LinkedIn with a personalised message? Pop them an email to arrange a coffee or a meeting? Just message them to say ‘It was lovely meeting you at ____ yesterday, hope to catch up again soon.’

What are your tips & tricks for the networking trade? Disagree with any of ours? Who’s coming to say hello at Railtex in May?