Networking is something I simply love doing. With that said however, when looking back to last year and in particular to last summer, there were a lot of networking events going on but I didn’t end up attending any of them. Very strange for me. Apparently meeting people at a nice lounge that has a patio and drinks wasn’t that appealing for me. Normally though, time and money permitting, I try to attend a handful of networking events a year. Thinking back to last year though, I did attend one in particular that stands out. It was a networking event on social media, the Social Media for Government Conference, and I actually got to go to it for free.
The conference was last March and I won a contest, run by social media guru Joseph Thornley of Thornley Fallis (@Thornley on Twitter) who was giving away 2 free tickets to attend the conference ($400 value) to two students who could demonstrate in a written piece how attending the conference would benefit them. Here was my winning response. After making the cut it was time to enjoy what would turn out to be a great event.
The Social Media for Government Conference was a two day event. I remember being dressed up (wearing a suit on day one as most people were in business casual) honoured to be Mr. Thornley’s guest. I heard many great presentations about how businesses in the private sector such as Royal Bank of Canada and Microsoft Canada as well as those in the public sector such as government organizations like HRSDC and Parks Canada, were using social media to connect with those who use their products and those they serve.Simply put, It was a great experience to listen to so many passionate speakers from these organizations. Now fast forward to last week, almost a year to the day of the Social Media Conference, I would find myself getting ready to go back into networking, but this time at my university.
This past Thursday’s at my university I attended a networking event which featured professionals in the areas of writing, publishing, journalism, broadcasting, and public relations. It was a dream bonzana of talented individuals in fields that I have a lot of interest in. However, the way it was set up was a little different from the Social Media Conference. It was set up kinda like speed dating, with 15 minutes at each table, making things move much more quicker than the two day Social Media Conference. Luckily, I was still able to get a lot of great info though, which I will unpack in further detail for Friday’s post. What I really want to talk about are some of my observations of the event in general, thoughts on networking and finally a couple tips that have worked for me and perhaps could work for you when you’re out networking.
Overall the event was a success. Hard not to be when everyone is looking so good, dressed to impress. But seriously there is more to that of course. The flow of the event, orchestrated by the sound of a bell indicating a table switch, and the excellent billingual moderator kept everything moving efficiently. Speakers were great and very attentive to me personally. I asked a couple questions and engaged them for information so really made it one on one, just me and them having a conversation, amid a busy table of 6 other students. First quick tip, ask questions. Makes the conversation more personal and you will definitely get more from the experience.
Everyone at the event were students from the university from a variety of different programs. From programs such as Arts, French studies, and a few others I don’t remember. It really is too bad there wasn’t an organized after party, where we could have grabbed drinks and discussed our aspirations among each other. This is something I have to get involved in for future school networking events, being responsibile for the after networking get together.
Now onto what I think are three good tips that will aid you in your networking efforts. Hopefully you’re not like me and have to have a one year gap in between to use them.
Bring a notebook to write in
You are never going to remember what someone says no matter how great your memory is. They had given us a notepad to take notes but I found it too small. I actually don’t mind taking notes, so quickly I was scribbling down information. Came away with 2 full pages after the night was done.
Save the drinks
I always used to grab an alcoholic drink at the bar when everyone else did. Monkey see, monkey do. However, being the mid weight I am and after a long day of work then settling into a networking event, it probably isn’t the brightest idea. Grab a ginerale or water and focus on who you meet. You can always grab an alcoholic drink after when things get more fun.
Ask for advice, rather than for a job
Networking is all about the exchange of information. What I have found in my experience, is that people are more than willing to give their advice, especially if you show a genuine interest or passion about what your asking them about. It is your job to make the link as to how to go about getting the job after you’ve obtained the advice. Getting a job is very competitive and most likely these professionals, unless on a recruiting trip, will not be walking around with a list of job openings. So keep that respect in mind and ask for advice rather than pressing for a job.
Networking is fun. As long as you get into it! Listening to someone talk for hours is not your only option. Ask questions that relate to what the speaker is talking about, try and engage them. They will definitely appreciate your genuine interest. The results for you will be even greater as the more you know, the more opportunity you create for yourself.