Normally, when I think of networking, my mind draws this picture: Nametags, hotel conference rooms, uncomfortable conversations, old carpet. The last networking event I attended, however, drew this picture: great atmosphere, comfortable conversations, awesome venue.
In pursuit of improving my ability to network, the Canrights recently sent me to a networking event hosted by the Business Marketing Association Chicago Young Professionals. The event was all about networking, getting social, and meeting new people. I was a bit apprehensive (as you can imagine from my thoughts on networking above). I became interested however because the event was being held at Old Town Social, a well-known and popular spot just a hop from our River North office. The night of the event, after some introductions, some mingling and some great drinks, we broke off into groups where we could discuss networking with other young professionals under the guidance of one experienced professional.
The points that were made in our conversation were simple, but so important to remember:
- Read the news, keep up on recent technology, have interests that you can readily draw upon in conversation.
- Have a firm handshake, avoid politics, and try not to ask “What do you do?” first thing, considering today’s job market.
- Every week it is crucial to do your own personal research on topics you’re interested in and to keep yourself interesting. Try reading a couple blogs you’re interested in every week, or try Google Reader to keep you on top of your game.
- The follow up after a meeting is just as important as creating a memorable conversation. Continue to follow up with contacts when you start to lose touch.
One of the biggest points made at this BMA event was the importance of not becoming outdated and keeping up with the times. Be conscious of your web presence and social media, respond to emails and messages in a timely manner, and be ready for the next big thing. Today, we all know what Twitter and Facebook are, but what will be next, and how will you respond?
This event broke my previous belief that networking was boring. The event itself was fresh and exciting, and if I want to be a successful networker, I too need to be fresh and exciting in my conversations, my work and my ideas.