Navigating Your First Networking Event

Networking events are a fantastic opportunity to not only get out of your comfort zone but also meet many different people that can help you along your way to success. However, the idea of approaching a complete stranger and trying to introduce yourself can be extremely intimidating and at some times, down right terrifying.

I had always heard of the importance in going to networking events as I knew the many benefits that would come out of it. At the same time though, I would always find some type of an excuse as to why I couldn’t go. In reality, I was worried about feeling like Jack Sparrow in the gif below and the professionals being the group chasing him.

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I finally decided I needed to put my big girl pants on and just put myself out there if I wanted to better off my future and fortunately, the event went better than I could have ever imagined. That being said, here are my key takeaways from the event that you should keep in mind before your first or tenth networking event!

1. Practice small talk to help you become more comfortable and familiar with it.

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The worst possible thing that could happen to you during a conversation at a networking event is coming across the dreaded awkward silence. This happened to me a few times at the event I attended and while we were both able to laugh it off and move past it, it certainly made my confidence drop. To avoid this, practice small talk with anyone you can, create a list of possible questions you can always ask and if you can in moment, try to deepen the conversation. Don’t ask anything that can be answered with a simple “yes or no”.

2. Know exactly who you want to talk to at the event and do your research on them.

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With most networking events that I have come across, a list is typically developed with some of the professionals that will be in attendance. If one or a few of those names stick out to you on the list, keep that as your motivation to kill it at the event and research them so you have starting points to ask questions off of. As mentioned above, the last thing you want to deal with is awkward silence so if you can prepare yourself in advance for talking to someone, the more confident and better off you’re going to feel.

3. When in doubt, talk with some of the other students or younger people there.

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If you don’t necessarily feel comfortable enough going right up to the Vice President from a huge company, that’s okay! Instead of just standing around sipping on some water, go talk to someone who might be just as nervous as you are. At one point during the event I went to, I just stood back and looked for someone I felt I could start a conversation with. Little did I know that that girl would soon be starting an apprenticeship with Villanova athletics and wanted to stay in contact due to my connections to professional sports and hers with collegiate sports. You never know who you might meet or how they can help you in the future so try to make the most of the situation!

4. If you don’t have them already, invest in business cards!

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Never in a million years did I think that at 21 years old I would have my own personal business card. To be honest, I always kind of laughed at the idea because I thought it was too excessive but ohhh will it help you with staying connected with the professionals you meet. Face the facts, we’re terrible at memorizing information especially when it comes to putting a face with someone’s name, a phone number or an email address. Having a business card and taking them with you to an event like this will be an absolute lifesaver for when it comes to following up with individuals. It also makes you feel so much more professional than you think.

5. BE CONFIDENT

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On the inside, you might be trying to figure out a game plan on how to escape the room, call an Uber, head home and get back in your pajamas to watch Netflix. However, do not let this show on the outside. If you want to leaving a lasting impression, you have to be confident in yourself and in what you have to bring to the table for someone. Even if that means going in the bathroom and giving yourself a pep talk, do it. I promise it will help.

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