Have you ever had trouble connecting with people at a networking event? Been the new person in a group? Have you felt that sense of dread sit heavy in your gut when you have to approach a group with their backs turned towards you?
A lot of the people in those groups are feeling the same way. They bring friends. Some might choose to stick close to people they know. They are all trying to avoid rejection. Remember, a networking event isn’t high school or any other established group where the outsider is the only person interested in meeting others. Everyone else safe in the familiarity of old acquaintances. A networking event is a group where the one common interest of all the attendants is the desire (or mandate–let’s be honest, a lot of us are told to go by our boss) to connect with people.
Keep in mind that the entire purpose of a networking event is to meet new people when you read this article. Here are some strategies to make approaching and making a connecting easier.
Stand near the bar/food, smile, make eye contact and nod.
People tend to go toward the bar/food for multiple reasons, but one reason is that they feel awkward and need something to or to get some liquid courage. By acknowledging them you are allowing them to approach you and feel less awkward about it. You can even make small talk about the food selection or the drink specials.
Start with small talk but move past that.
People tend to start with “What do you do?” or something similar. Ask more in-depth questions about their job. Or break the pattern and ask about hobbies or recent big events they’ve been too.
Rejection might still happen and that’s ok.
Even the most veteran networkers get rejected sometimes. Move on and don’t dwell on it. There’s a thousand different reasons someone might not want to interact. They might not want to be there, they might just be at the bar and not part of the event. Also, people are sometimes forced to go and are incredibly annoyed at it. However, the reason doesn’t matter, so bow out of the conversation gracefully if the other person starts showing signs of disinterest or that they want the conversation to stop. There’s tons of other people to talk too, don’t get hung up on that one rejection.