Job and career fairs are great avenues for connecting with future employers and promoting your product. With so many individuals competing for attention, however, it is difficult to make sure you stand out and don’t end up on the sidelines. Here are a few ways you can feel more confident at your next networking event!
The most important thing you can do at a networking event is to be yourself. Even with a short time of interacting, individuals can often tell if you are being genuine or not. That being said, a positive individual who is eager to find opportunities and learn will make a bigger impression on prospective employers than someone who plays hard to get. A future interview or job comes as much from your personality as it does your skillset. Let individuals get to know you personally so they can determine whether they want to work with you in the future or not. As an additional benefit, presenting the best version of yourself will help you realize your future goals and become closer to becoming the person you want to be.
Look for Networking Opportunities
University lectures, round table events, trade shows, and job club meetings all provide you some level of opportunity to network. But perhaps the only way you can become confident at any networking event is by attending countless other networking events, whatever the kind. For most industries, there will be events going on in large cities at least once a year, so sign up to attend these events even if you are not looking for a specific outcome. The more you talk to people, the easier it will be to present yourself and come up with conversation topics. There are also several virtual networking events that will help you grow your experience. Reach out to current and previous mentors to see what events they would recommend attending to grow your skill set. Practice makes perfect!
Practice Your Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is a quick summary of your background and experience. The pitch is called “elevator” because it should be short enough to present during an elevator ride. Anything longer and you have lost your audience’s attention. When done right, your speech will help introduce you in a compelling way which will help you build your network or land a job. The best way to feel confident about your pitch is by practicing it over and over until the speed, time, and persuasive message comes across naturally. The more you practice, the easier it will be to deliver at a networking event, regardless of surrounding distractions.
In the professional industry, they often say you need to “dress to impress.” A networking event is no exception to this rule. Whether you are networking yourself, your organization, or a specific product, you need to dress like you are interviewing as an individual. Your appearance will communicate multiple messages to your audience including how serious you are and what you hope to achieve through your interactions. Women should wear something that fits their style, like a modest, professional dress to help you feel confident. Men should wear slacks, a button up shirt, and perhaps a suit coat and tie depending on the occasion. When you look good you feel good, and this will show in the way you dress and present yourself.
Do Your Homework
Confidence at a networking event is all about the preparation you put in beforehand. Do your homework on any specific individuals or organizations you hope to meet. Think through how you will meet them, and how you will present yourself to them. Then identify ways that you can be an asset for them. Anticipating ways you fulfill their specific needs will help you in presenting yourself, asking the right questions, and answering theirs. You can also spark a conversation prior to the event via social media or email. By doing your homework, you open the door for easy interactions where you feel prepared and confident in your ability to carry a conversation.
Talk Less, Listen More
Sometimes individuals are so eager to get their name out there, they only talk. When interacting at a networking event, it is wise to listen to as many individuals as you can. Learn from some people’s mistakes and learn from other’s expertise. As you listen, you will find out information that can be very valuable in your next conversation. Listening naturally improves your confidence because you are taking the time to increase your knowledge. When you can, ask for advice, as people are often flattered to be asked for their opinion. Individuals will also be impressed with your ability to process the information they give you and apply it in real time, giving you a competitive advantage.
Predetermine Your Goals
One of the things that can make networking so intimidating is that you and everyone else in that room doesn’t know what to expect. Going into an event, you should determine what your goals will be ahead of time. Have a clear idea of what you are hoping to get out of this experience. If you are looking for a job, bring your resume and have a goal to hand it out to x number of people. If you are hoping to work with a specific client, familiarize yourself with their station and the individuals within the business. Determining your desired outcome ahead of time will help you spend your time more efficiently and give you confidence when you are not quite sure what to do.
One of the best ways you can stand out with potential business partners and employers is by following up with your new contacts. Try to follow up within 24-48 business hours of the networking event. A simple email or thank you card will go a long way in helping you form friendships, connections, and receive feedback that can be invaluable with future networking events. As you attend future events you will find that your connections have grown, and more networks you can be familiar and confident working within.
The reality is that some days are better than others. Some networking events run flawlessly and others you might wish you didn’t attend. As you prepare, practice, and present the best version of yourself, however, you will be more successful at these events. No matter what, be confident that you as an individual are worth putting out there!