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Networking 101

It’s International Networking Week! If you’re the sort of person for whom small talk doesn’t come easily, you might share my initial reaction when I found out this existed- “How can I skip this?” Making small talk with people I only vaguely know is not my preferred way to spend time. And I know quite a few people who agree with that sentiment.

But despite this first thought, I did start to remember previous networking events. And interestingly, I didn’t remember them as a bad time. I was busy, and learned new things about people that surprised me. I met new people I really enjoyed talking to. So why the disconnect? Well, partially because I was equating networking with an awkward party, full of people I almost know, but don’t, forced to make nice until an acceptable amount of time has passed and I can leave. Networking is different. I’m there with a specific purpose, and there are multiple opportunities to fulfill that purpose.

Networking is a time to make new connections and renew older ones. A chance to learn new things- about the people there, what they do, opportunities in the community, and what you can do to become part of it all. Networking is more than just a transactional “You take my card I’ll take yours”. It’s a chance to integrate into the different aspects of business and community that keep things going.

Need a few tips to get started? Try these:

  1. Start with people you know. See if a friend or coworker will be attending an event. See if you can find out who else will be at the event. You might be more familiar with people there than you think. If not, bring someone with you to help break the ice.
  2. Have a few questions at the ready. They can be whatever you’d like- a local sports team, the weather, pets, kids, a new business opening in the area. Or something more business oriented: What are your long-term goals? How do you stay up-to date with industry trends? What is your most recent challenge? How did you enter this industry? Remember, small talk is not your enemy. It’s a chance to learn something new.
  3. Make a goal. It can be whatever metric you’d like. “I want to get at least three business cards”, or “I’d like to meet someone in a completely different industry”, or “I’d like to introduce myself to five new people”. If you don’t make it, no sweat! Just look for the next event to try again, or adjust your expectations.
  4. Be friendly and be yourself. Put your best foot forward, and don’t be fake. If you’re at a networking event, everyone is there for the same purpose. So smile, and let them get to know you and what you can do.
  5. Still worried? Try it out with a smaller group. Perhaps a dinner event, or a meeting with people you already mostly know. Find someone to mentor you, to get you started with an introduction, and who can swing in if you get stuck.


I hope these suggestions help. Looking for a chance to try them out? Be sure to check out the Chamber Calendar for upcoming events.

For Further Reading:

11 Tips for Successful Business Networking

A Beginner’s Guide to Networking

The Benefits of Networking


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