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50 Expert Tips On How To Network Like a Pro [And Not Be Nervous]

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This post will show you 50 tips on how to network like a pro.

You will go to your next networking event armed with the right tools and full of confidence.

You’ll also learn:

  • The benefits of networking
  • Different types of networking
  • How to network with the right people

Let’s get to it.

Contents show

What Is Networking?

I think it’s useful to start the post off by outlining exactly what networking is.

The Oxford Dictionary definition is, ‘a group of people who exchange information, contacts, and experience for professional or social purposes’.

This is a really nice simple way of defining what networking is.

The reason for using the Oxford Dictionary definition is because if you ask 10 different people what networking is you will probably get 10 different answers.

This helps to clear it up.

Networking used to be about going to an event in a function room at a hotel or company offices.

Now it can take many shapes and forms such as online events, social media, and more traditional style events.

Photo by Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash

Benefits of Networking

There is a reason why successful people network.

It’s a valuable way to expand your knowledge, learn from others, win new clients, and let people know about your business.

Here are some of the most common benefits of networking:

Referrals/New Business

Probably the most obvious benefit and the reason most people start to network.

Networking events are a great way to attract high quality, prequalified leads/referrals.

The leads are generally of a much higher quality than inbound marketing strategies as prospects are at the event for specific reasons.

Opportunities

When you mix more with likeminded people it’s surprising the number of opportunities that crop up.

It could be JV’s, client leads, partnerships, speaking arrangements, new product ideas, or any number of other opportunities.

You need to put yourself in the right place to take advantage.

Connections

Everyone has heard of the saying, “it’s not what you know, but WHO you know”.

Well, networking events are a great way of making new, important connections.

You never know who you might meet, who you can help, or who might be able to help you.

Raising Your Profile

Networking is a great way of being visible and getting yourself noticed.

By going regularly, it shows commitment and helps to build your reputation.

It proves you are not in it for short terms gains, but long term results.

Advice

Being around like-minded people will give you the opportunity to get advice on all sorts of different things.

Equally, I’m sure there’s a lot of expertise that you’re able to share with others too.

Improved Confidence

By pushing yourself to talk to people you don’t know it will increase your confidence.

If you are not naturally confident, it’s a great way to take you out of your comfort zone.

Over time, it will feel more natural.

Positive Influence

Ever heard that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with?

Well, by continually putting yourself around people who are looking to take their career/business/life to the next level, those traits will rub off on you.

Satisfaction

Networking events are a great way to help other people.

Whether it’s something specific to your business or something you have experience in. It feels good to share you knowledge with other people.

Give and expect nothing back in return.

Friendship

Many friendships are formed at networking events.

It’s not surprising really if you are associating with people that share the same interests and likes.

Learning

By regularly going to industry-specific events you will always be learning.

It’s a great way to get ahead of your competition if you are aware of the latest news and trends coming out.

Different Types of Networking

As I alluded to earlier in the post, networking can take many forms.

Let’s take a look at the key types of networking available to us.

Industry Events

Almost all industries will hold regular networking events.

They will usually involve a programme of speakers, with regular interludes where you can network.

Industry events are a great way of building your professional network as everyone there has a similar agenda.

Industry events can sometimes be extremely large where it might be a little more difficult to network effectively.

However, I’m sure there will be many more intimate events in your industry that you can look out for.

Industry events are great if you are an experienced business owner, new business owner, or an employee looking to build your career.

Speed Networking

This might sound like something you associate with dating.

But it has it’s place with professional networking too.

They are a great way to just get to the point. 

Everyone is there with the same agenda and know it’s not a time for lots of small talk. 

The idea is to get straight to the point and find out if any mutually beneficial relationships can be made.

Some tips for making a good first impression:

  • Have a short elevator pitch prepared
  • Take business cards
  • Prepare some questions
  • Listen as well as talk

Virtual Networking

Technology is a big part of most industries now, and networking is no different.

There are now lots of networking events that are held over video conferencing such as Zoom or Google Meet.

These can be great if you are working with an international audience where it’s much harder to meet face to face.

Social Media Networking

Social media can be extremely powerful when it comes to making new connections.

Linkedin is a platform that has been built to make professional connections.

There are also lots of professional pages on Facebook which are a great way to keep up with industry changes on a global scale.

If you have young children or find it harder to attend evening events, then joining virtual/social media networks can be really useful.

Network With The Right People

It’s really important that you are networking with the right people.

You don’t want to waste anyone else’s time and you certainly don’t want to waste your own.

How is it possible to figure out who’s a good person to network with, and who to avoid?

Like all good relationships, it has to be mutually beneficial. Therefore, a good contact will:

  • Be interested in the long term, as well as right now
  • Help and advise, as well as telling you about themselves
  • Provide examples of where they can help, rather than just making bold claims

A bad contact will:

  • Lack credibility
  • Ask for help too much
  • Only be worried about themselves
  • Never ask any questions about you

“Networking is always important when it’s real, and it’s always useless when it’s fake.”

Seth Godin

50 Tips On How To Network Like a Pro

Here we go, the part of the post you’ve been looking forward to.

We will now show you the best 50 tips on how to network like a pro [and not be nervous].

Let’s go.

Photo by Product School on Unsplash

1. Start Simple

Approaching strangers can be scary, especially if you are shy.

Start simple, by networking with friends and family.

Start with the known, instead of the unknown to help demystify the process.

Once you build some confidence from networking with friends and family, broaden it out.

Start networking with people you went to school or university with. 

You’ll be surprised at some of the great connections you can make by doing this.

2. Don’t Say Sorry

Inexperienced or shy networkers tend to apologize when asking for help.

This is because they are still unsure of the true concept of networking – it’s an exercise of relationship building.

Saying sorry too much makes you look like a beginner.

Not the impression you want to give off.

Don’t feel like you need to apologize for wanting to learn more about the person you are talking to.

Most people will generally like talking about themselves. 

3. Smile

Such a simple basic thing to do and one of the easiest tips on how to network.

However, when you are not feeling confident or nervous it can be extremely hard.

Try to enjoy the process of networking and you will naturally have a smile on your face.

People are much more likely to spark a conversation with you if you are smiling and look approachable.

You don’t have to over do it either.

Just lighten up your expression and smile when you say hello.

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

4. Timing Your Entry

Walking up to a group of strangers talking is even more scary than just approaching one person.

However, it’s something you will need to get used to.

Joining a conversation at the right time does require a bit of practice and subtlety.

Don’t just jump in and overpower the conversation.

Wait until there is a short pause and pose a question to the group.

Asking a question helps to build your credibility and can be much easier than jumping into a speech or opinion.

5. Listen 

In Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends, one of the most prominent points is how everyone loves talking about themselves.

For someone shy, this is exactly what you want to hear.

Ask the right questions and let the other person speak.

Don’t try and butt in at every opportunity to get your thoughts or opinions across.

Listen intently.

The other person will remember they had a great conversation with you.

6. Remember Your Business Cards

Always have some business cards with you.

They’re a great way for you to leave your name behind so your new connections remember you.

Especially helpful if you are shy.

Don’t wait for someone to offer up their card first.

Offer yours and let them know it’s OK to reach out.

In most cases they will get their card out too which is a bonus.

7. Say Their Name

People love to hear their own name.

When you meet new people, use their name immediately.

It will make the other person feel more comfortable right away.

It also shows that you are paying attention.

Luckily, at most networking events you will be wearing a name badge.

This makes it extremely easy to start using someone’s name. 

You don’t even have to ask for it.

8. Remembering People’s Names

If there are no name badges at particular events, it’s really important you remember people’s names.

When someone introduces themselves make a conscious effort to really listen when they say their name.

It can be too easy to let this moment pass too quickly and you suddenly have no idea what their name is.

If you come across the same person later at the event, use their name.

They will be impressed that you remembered it.

9. Be Yourself

Most introverts think they need to transform into an extrovert at networking events.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Sure, you have to take action and actually get out to the networking event.

But, you don’t have to turn into an award winning actor.

Just be yourself. 

People will notice if you are putting on a facade.

Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash

10. Network More

Networking doesn’t always have to be about business or your career.

Instead of chatting online, join a club.

If you’re a gamer, sign up to a gaming convention.

By networking around things that you really enjoy doing you will notice your confidence improve and you will feel more relaxed.

This will also spill over to your next business networking event.

11. Talk About Your Hobbies

Your own personal interests can be a great conversation go-to at networking events.

When you talk about things you are passionate about, you naturally exude more confidence.

If you do something interesting outside of work bring it up.

It’s much easier to remember the guy who likes to skydive than the person who didn’t say anything.

12. Find a Wingman or Wingwomen

If you are shy it can be easy to latch onto one person for the duration of an event.

It’s definitely easier, but don’t do it. Here’s a solution.

Ask your connection if they know anyone else at the event.

Admit you are shy and trying to network more effectively and turn that connection into a wingman or woman.

Ask if they will introduce you to the people they know.

13. Be Generous

It can be difficult at networking events if you feel you have nothing to give back.

Networking works best when you have something to offer other people.

The good news. 

You always have something to offer.

It could simply be flattery or encouragement.

People will like that.

So don’t worry if you feel you’re out of your depth in some conversations. Just be kind and yourself.

14. Make Sure You Are Prepared

If you think you might freeze up or get tongue-tied, prepare in advance.

Have some ice-breaker questions ready to go.

Practice a nice, short and to the point elevator pitch if someone asks what you do.

Sometimes it can be useful to leave openings in your elevator pitch for questions.

Be consciously vague around some points and you will often find the other person will ask some questions.

15. Follow Up

The art of good networking is in the follow up.

It can be easy to pick up lots of business cards at events, store them away, and never look at them again.

Make it your aim to follow up with at least 3 people you have spoken to at the event.

Even if you don’t feel there is any value either of you can add right now. 

Make it a habit to follow up and say it was good to meet them.

You never know what might happen in the future. 

Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

16. Find a Reason To Follow Up

Following up is great, however, having a reason to follow up is even better.

If you want to build a relationship with someone you need to create a reason to keep the relationship going.

If you read an article that adds to a discussion you had at a networking event, send it to them.

Outline why you thought it was interesting and how they might benefit.

People will really appreciate the thought and it will help to consolidate the relationship.

17. Accept Rejection

This will be one of the more challenging tips on how to network.

In all walks of life, you will come across people who can’t or don’t want to help you.

Some will be rude.

You just have to accept it and move on.

Don’t dwell.

Most people aren’t like this, but you have to accept you might have to ‘kiss a few frogs’ at networking events.

18. Accept Risk

Once you get over your fear of rejection, you’ll find it much easier to spark conversation with strangers.

In networking settings most people will appreciate you being the first person to start the conversation.

Take the plunge.

Don’t wait for someone else to start the conversation.

Make it your personal goal that you will start one conversation with a stranger every day.

Then, when it comes to your next networking event you will feel more confident.

19. Use Standing In Queues To Your Advantage

Being stuck in a queue is a great time to spark up a conversation with someone.

It’s a really easy and non-awkward way to meet the person either in front of or behind you.

At networking events this could be the queue to get in, or the queue to the buffet.

Use it as a great opportunity to make new connection.

The added bonus is that if you don’t like or enjoy speaking with them, or vice versa, you both have a nice easy get out at the end of the queue.

20. Head Tilting

It’s hard making real connections at networking events, but it is possible.

The use of body language can be a great tool in your armoury.

The head tilt simply portrays to the person you are speaking to that you are listening.

People like this, it makes them feel more comfortable and relaxed.

You can do this to show someone you are speaking to that you’re really paying attention to what they are saying.

21. Stop Hovering at the Buffet Table

Try not to stay at the buffet table for too long.

If you are speaking to someone with a full plate of food, it’s hard to shake hands and all they want to do is eat their food.

Instead of standing where people exit the buffet, stand at the cocktail tables or grab a table.

It’s much easier to talk to someone at a table when you are both eating.

As an added benefit, the science shows that eating the same food as someone else increases trust and cooperation.

22. Forget Your Personal Agenda

Make it your goal to be honest, open and friendly.

Forge connections with people where you genuinely think you may be able to help each other.

It’s easier for people to connect with you if they feel a sense of generosity coming from you.

Others will be able to quickly spot if you are just out for yourself.

23. Don’t Dismiss Anyone

At every networking event you go to, make it your goal to find the value in every person you speak to.

Don’t discredit people just because of titles.

Someone may ‘just’ work in admin, but they may have valuable connections at their firm or knowledge you’d never learn if you dismiss them by title.

24. Get Creative

Make it a point to connect people in the room where you feel they can genuinely help each other.

As you speak with more people in the room you will get a sense of who can help who.

Introduce the people you have spoken with if you think their interests will align.

They will be grateful for the connection.

And you never know, it may lead to an opportunity for you in return at some point.

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

25. Work Out How You Can Help

At the end of any conversation, make it a habit to ask, “is there any way I can help”?

As this isn’t done very often, you may get some surprised looks.

However, it will often be followed with an appreciative smile.

You will certainly be remembered.

In most instances the person may not have an answer for you right away.

However, they may have an idea later and you are giving them an open invite to follow up.

26. Approach The Most Intimidating Person

A great way to get over any fears really quickly.

Get it done quick and early at the networking event and you will find the rest of the event feels a lot easier.

Often, this ‘intimidating person’ is actually not that intimidating either.

They will be grateful for someone coming up and speaking to them.

27. Be Network Savvy 

Figure out what your objective is for every networking event you go to.

Then do some research, what are the influential groups you think will be most relevant?

At any networking event, all you need to do is make one proper connection to make the event worthwhile.

28. Find Your Events

Typically you will be looking for events that align with your business or career.

For example if you are in property, you may attend an architeks networking event.

However, it can be useful to join groups that have nothing to do with your work.

Find some networking events that are about things you are personally interested in, such as a hobby.

You will find that they make a nice break from the more formal business events.

29. Set Some Goals

Probably one of my favourite tips on how to network.

As with anything in life, setting goals is important.

Before you go to an event, set three goals you want to achieve.

For example, it could be to make one new connection, hand out 10 business cards, help someone etc.

By having goals you won’t just float around the room.

You will be intentional about what you are trying achieve at the event.

Related Post: 51 Unique Examples Of Personal SMART Goals To Set This Year

Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash

30. Understand The Requirements

Probably one the most important tips on how to network.

Some networking groups may have specific requirements you need to follow.

Obviously you need to be aware of these and follow them.

Some events may have a requirement where you need to share leads with people at the event.

You may or may not feel comfortable with this, but you need to know the rules.

The last thing you want is to be in a position where you don’t know the rules of a particular group.

31. Know When To Look For New Events

It’s OK to drop out of networking groups/events.

If you feel like the event doesn’t offer enough value to you, and you can’t be helpful in return, it’s probably time to leave.

Networking takes a lot of time, energy, and effort so you want to make sure you are using it wisely.

Look for something new if you don’t feel something is working.

32. Get Active At The Event

Most networking events will have some kind of speaking arrangements throughout.

Once you have been to an event a few times, figure out if you could give a speech that others will get value from.

If you think you can, find the hosts of the event, introduce yourself and explain the type of speech you would like to give.

Hosts are always looking for new people to speak at their events so they will be interested to hear what you have to offer.

33. Use Social Media Effectively

You can be networking from most devices 24/7.

It’s really easy.

But you do need to get it right.

Be active on platforms like Facebook and Linkedin, leave comments and likes on relevant posts.

It’s really important you come across as authentic and real.

Try to be as similar as you are in real life when you are posting thoughts and opinions online.

34. Say Thank You

As in most situations in life, politeness goes a long way.

It’s also really simple and easy.

After you have finished speaking with someone at an event thank them for their time and the advice they have given you.

It increases the chances of them remembering you for the right reasons.

Sure, they will remember you if you are rude. 

But that’s not what you want.

35. Be Different

It can be hard to stand out among a big crowd of people.

Try and differentiate yourself.

It could be something simple like wearing a brightly coloured tie or dress.

Something more subtle like an interesting business card.

Or something you say, the advice you give.

You want people to remember you after the event.

36. Give Yourself a Pep Talk

If you’re getting nervous before an event, give yourself a quick talking to.

You could run through your own personal checklist to remind yourself you are prepared; business cards, goals set, smiling etc.

Or it could be just reminding yourself why you at the event.

You are there to help others and hopefully pick up some new connections.

That’s it.

Take the pressure off yourself.

37. Quality Over Quantity

Sometimes you can get carried away and feel like you need to approach everyone in the room.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Try to work out who might be the best person to speak with.

Spend more time with relevant people and less time just trying to speak with everybody.

38. Embrace Small Talk

The thought of small talk makes most of us feel uncomfortable.

However, the reality is you have to embrace it at networking events.

There will be times where you will need to do some small talk.

Often, trying to skip past it makes things more awkward anyway.

Look for an easy way to get a conversation started. 

Consider something like, “have you been to this event before”?

It breaks the ice and starts you both off on some common ground.

Photo by Dogancan Ozturan on Unsplash

39. Ask Creative Questions

Once you have finished the small talk, it really helps to have some questions in your armoury that are different to everyone else.

As an example, instead of asking someone what they do for work. Ask them, “What’s the most exciting thing you are working on at the moment”?

It’s good because it’s different to most questions. It also gets the other person to think.

Often you will probably have more questions on the back of their response and the conversation will flow.

Here are some more ideas of questions to ask.

40. Network Like You Are Having A Normal Conversation

Put simply, approach networking as if you are having a normal conversation with someone.

There is no need to act differently.

When you try and think too much about what you are saying and how you come across, you often get tongue tied.

You will have far more compelling and natural conversations if you just try and be yourself.

41. Go Beyond Your Own Job Title

At every networking event you go to you will be asked the question: What do you do?

Most people will respond with their job title.

Go further than this, have a short and to the point elevator pitch.

Tell them exactly what you do, not just your generic job title which doesn’t really tell anyone what you actually do.

People will like this too as it will give them the opportunity to ask more questions.

42. Look Out For The Stragglers

You don’t always have to charge up to the biggest group of people at the event and get in on their conversation.

Look out for those that aren’t already in a conversation with someone.

These are normally the people who feel just as uncomfortable as you.

Go and introduce yourself, they will be happy to speak.

43. Make Use Of Linkedin

Linkedin was built to help professionals network so make use of it.

When you are following up with someone it generally takes the form of an email.

Mix it up and send a Linkedin request and/or message.

It also helps you to stay close to what they are interested in and commenting on.

This will give you more ideas on conversations starters with them.

44. Personalised Follow Up Message

One of my favourite tips on how to network.

You can be sure that lots of other people will be following up with the contacts you spoke to at the event.

Stand out from the crowd by personalising your follow up message.

Stay away from the generic stuff.

If you can it’s useful at the networking event to jot down some quick notes after you have spoken with someone.

This will give you some useful information for when you are following up.

45. Ask Open-Ended Questions

This applies to being at the networking event and when you follow up.

Open-ended questions allow the conversation to be broadened out.

It encourages the other person to think about their answer, and will often lead to you having more questions.

It is much better than asking questions that can be replied with either a yes or no.

46. Get Excited

One of the most simple tips on how to network.

Go to the event full of excitement.

How much better does it feel when you are doing something you genuinely really enjoy?

While it may take time to really enjoy networking events, remind yourself that you could meet some really exciting people.

Photo by Mert Guller on Unsplash

47. Be Conscious Of Taking Up Too Much Time

Don’t cling to people at events and take up too much of their time.

You have to remember that they are there to network too and may want to meet some more people.

Be respectful of their time as a lot of people will be too polite to say they want to move on.

48. Present a Success Story

If you feel like you are building good rapport with someone and genuinely feel like you can help them tell a story about how you have helped others in a similar position.

Keep it short and sweet, but get them interested.

49. Ask For Help

Sometimes it can be daunting to just ask for help.

However, most people will be willing to help if you just ask.

It can be good practice to ask contacts you meet at networking events if they know of anyone that would be useful for you to connect with.

You will often find that they know someone and will be more than happy to introduce you.

50. Take a Friend

Sometimes it can just feel more comfortable going with a friend.

Ask for a favour and see if one your friends will go along with you.

By friend I mean someone that is not a work colleague and will have no agenda themselves for the event.

It’s good to do this when you first start networking as you will feel more relaxed.

Bonus Tip On How To Network Like A Pro

Don’t think of it as networking.

Just be yourself and think of networking as any gathering where there are lots of people.

Try not to build it up in your mind to be something it’s not.

Just relax and have some fun next time you are networking.

To Sum Up

Hopefully these tips on how to network help you at your next event.

There’s quite a lot to focus on, so start by picking a few.

Make sure you are comfortable with them.

Then move on to the others.

If there are any tips on how to network that you think I have missed from this list I would love to know.

Drop them in the comments below.


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