In the first week of the new Oxford Brooke’s Publishing Masters, a flurry of keen students flocked to The Kings Arms for the Society of Young Publishers‘ latest speaker event: Networking Masterclass. The room quickly became packed with bodies and was buzzing with nervous anticipation as each guest was presented with 5 blank cards and a pen upon entry.
Powered by Atwood Tate‘s Claire Louise Kemp and Independent Publishers Guild‘s Charly Ford, the night kicked off with top tips to guide people through the before, during and after of networking skills. From finding events to making lasting connections, here are the key take-aways to become a master networker:
- Take advantage of societies and networks that your job may be connected to. There are events going on all the time and your company may have a list of them so just ask. Also look at social media where events will be advertised.
- Look at delegate list beforehand so you have an idea of who is attending and can pinpoint people of interest. You can even contact the organiser in advance and ask them to introduce you to someone.
- Engage online beforehand using the event’s twitter hashtag. This will give you an idea of what to expect, help you to connect with people and give you a springboard for conversations. It is perfectly acceptable nowadays to say you recognise someone from twitter!
- Dress confidently and you will feel confident.
- Business cards are a must, it doesn’t matter if you don’t work for a company, just include your name, email and phone number. You could also include your twitter handle and a website if you have one. You can get some really nice unique designs or even design your own to stand out. Carrying these in a lanyard around your neck avoids fumbling in your bag and may also prompt people to ask you for your card. You should also carry a biro so you can make notes on other people’s business cards about what you talked about so you don’t forget (biro works best as some cards are glossy) If you run out or forget them, you can also write your details down for people.
- Get there early. It will be less daunting when there are fewer people to start with and this is also a prime opportunity to have some valuable interactions.
- First impressions count. Lots of people will be nervous but just say hello and smile; it’ll count for a lot!
- Give yourself a target: number of people to talk to, number of business cards to collect, a specific person to talk to. Having this in mind will give you more direction and will help you get more out of the event.
- Prepare your elevator pitch. This is a brief introduction about yourself and what you do and it is good to have this pre-prepared, especially if your role is complicated.
- Have a conversation starter (or two) ready about a current issue. Read up on related news and have an opinion about it. You can then use this to ask people what they think about it.
- It’s ok to politely excuse yourself to talk to others. Everyone is there to network so once you have spoken to someone for a while, either make an excuse to get a drink, or simply say you had better talk to some other people. You shouldn’t set yourself a time limit for conversations though, just see how things naturally progress.
- The bar area is a good place to catch people between conversations but don’t feel obliged to drink. If you do drink, don’t get drunk – remember to stay professional and that you want to leave a good impression.
- Ask lots of questions – you learn more from listening than talking. Ask people what they thought of speakers, how long they’ve been in their role etc.
- Say people’s name back to them when you meet them, this will ensure you are pronouncing it correctly and help you to remember it.
- Advanced level networking: try and take a picture of the person with their business card! This will put a face to a name. Although, read the situation as many won’t be comfortable with this.
- Don’t ask anything of someone you’ve just met, just focus on building the relationship. Maintaining this could lead to opportunities in the future. Similarly, if you want to give them a CV, don’t bring it to the event as they will have no where to put it and may lose it. Asking if it would be ok to email it to them is a better strategy, particularly as it gives you a reason to follow up.
- Follow up: add them on linked in or send an email the next day. Simply be saying how nice it was to meet them and to talk about X, Y & Z will build a more lasting connection. They will have spoken to lots of people so be specific, you want to stay in their memory.
- Tweet the organiser to thank them for the event.
- If you have a blog, write a round-up of the event and link to the organiser. They will appreciate it and will probably share your post which will gain you more exposure.
- Fake it till you make it! It’s a tricky and nerve-wracking skill but you will get better the more you do it.
There were some fantastic questions and suggestions from the crowd, all rewarded with chocolates, and it was fantastic to not only see everyone engaged, but to hear them sharing experiences and offering each other advice.
Finally, the mystery of the cards was revealed. These were to be our business cards and the challenge was to try to collect the cards of five other attendees and to find out something interesting about them. Despite the packed room which made maneuvering difficult, everyone got involved and it was a fantastic chance to try out some of the tips. There were prizes for the winners but everyone was smiling at what they had achieved and, although they agreed it would take practise, there was definitely a good deal of confidence in the room.