I, for one, know how hard it is going to events by yourself as everyone would prefer to have a friend for moral support and some evening banter. But sometimes you have to wander into an unknown bar full of unknown people. Whilst it gets easier, especially as your connection of people you know grows, I’ve got some failsafe tips on how to network at events as well as how to to make it as smooth and to be honest, useful as possible.
Grab a glass
For a long time, I didn’t like wine or prosecco. But it’s great to have a drink for two reasons: one, something to do with your hands so they aren’t crossed (bad body language) or in your pockets (if you even have any). And also, even the best person in the world won’t know how to interact with a stranger so a glass to take the nervous edge off helps even the most professional. Of course if you don't drink, it's still good to have a drink so you can at least have something to sip when someone is talking.
Smile and repeat
This may sound like something only a lunatic might do, but it’s basic science. You’re automatically inclined to trust someone more if they’re smiling, and if you repeat certain things, like their name or a little fact they just mentioned, you’re both a) more likely to remember it and b) show you’re listening to them. It's all science.
Talk to people!
Now it is hard to talk to people if you are quite a shy person; hell I’m not shy at all and even I struggle sometimes. First off, I leave the people who are chatting in a small group. If there are two or three of them, chances are they’re mates or colleagues who came together and probably aren’t that fussed about a random person butting in. So that leaves you with two options; loners or the PR’s. Both are great to chat to. the people on their own won’t mind talking and you have a vast amount of topics without having to try and get to know everyone: the event, their job, what they do in said job, whether they travelled far. Otherwise the PR’s: you can ask them about the event, they may even bring over the companies and bingo, they know your face. I've met some great people who have landed me jobs or extra events by this.
Always have an out
In case you get there and you aren’t feeling it or it’s just not that exciting, always have another 'event' you have to get to, or that you have to go back to the office as you only slipped out to pop in. It then means if you want to leave after 20 minutes, you don’t look like you just came for the canapés and champagne.
Try and stay off your phone
I don't always abide by this one, as it can be hard when you can't see anyone with an in and you don't want to look like you're lost. Of course, it's okay to be on it a bit to tweet, check what's happening or just so you look busy. But if you're spending the majority on it, you won't be mingling so what's the point of being there?
Have a business card
I’m forever forgetting and forever regretting. Get something sharp and sleek that you can pop out and give to them, because it shows you actually care about your profession and an easy way for them to get hold of you. I’d recommend Moo.com, as they have great templates and they come out in great colour and precision. Add your name, number, website and whatever social media you use alongside it or even better, if your work give them to you, just write on your personal website and bingo! Next time they need you, they'll know where to find you.
It's always hard to go and talk and this time last year I'd barely been to any events. Now, I can say that I know a ridiculous amount of lovely bloggers who I keep bumping into, PR's that I've had long e-mail chats to and journalists from loads of publications. Keep at it and eventually, you'll get there!