How to network effectively at events

Good for you – breaking out of your little bubble and deciding to finally go meet some people that can help you progress! You have an unusual experience ahead of you. Possibly, you are about to step out of your comfort zone. But that’s the place where you will find growth!

Sure, meeting new people can be awkward, especially if you are an introvert, but it doesn’t have to be. Some simple steps can make your experience not only smooth but also productive. If you are like many others, you may have the presupposition that you will be seen as an awkward loner, but that never turns out to be the case, especially if you do as I suggest further below.

Effective networking is an art (Photo by Julian V on

1. Engage immediately

So there you are, walking up to the event venue and starting to feel a little jittery. “What should I do now?” you ask yourself, and tens of possible scenarios play out in your head, mostly negative ones. The tension is there. It is not productive. Therefore, you need to loosen up.

There is no better way to de-pressurize than to jump into the very action that causes that pressure. Think about how hard it is to start the acclimation process of getting into the cold seawater on a spring beach day. What makes it easier? Running into that seawater, immersing your whole body, and getting it over with – shocking, yes, but swift.

When you enter the event venue, you are undoubtedly going to come across the first person you see. This may be a similar networking seeker, or maybe even a random person unaffiliated with the event. No matter who, this person is your opportunity to acclimate. Do not waste it. Start talking. Here is a good way to do it:

“Hi there! How are you doing? Do you know if the [event name] is being held here tonight?”

A simple, reasonable question always does the trick. You may even spark a whole conversation like this if the person happens to be an attendee. In the worst possible scenario, you will get a non-judgmental “yes” or “no” answer. No harm done. Moving on.

2. Complete a basic mission

Now that you have shaken off your fear of engagement, you may encounter the discomfort of an uncertain mission. You step into the event venue. Thoughts pour over the brim. “What’s next? Who do I pick for my next chit-chat? Am I not looking weird just standing and looking around?”

To avoid this edgy moment, set yourself on a mission outside of direct engagement. For example, head over to the bar to get yourself a drink, find and check the event schedule (if any), or take a stroll to observe what’s on display. There will be at least one person you will come across who will feel and recognize your here-for-networking aura. You will exchange glances and a conversation will start. Give that other person the chance to lose their fear-of-engagement quirk.

3. Pave the way to knowledge

Once you are in a conversation, there is a foolproof way to build your confidence, acquire knowledge, and boost likeability. Ask open-ended questions that would allow the other person to talk about themselves. People are naturally self-centered. They love talking about their own lives. Attention through a set of listening ears makes them melt. Here are some examples to spark an outburst of information that may be useful to you:

  • How did you hear of this event?
  • How did you get into [event topic]?
  • What value did you get from attending [event]?
  • What type of networking are you looking for?
  • What interesting people have you met here?
It is easier to make connections through a group chat (Photo by Askar Abayev on

4. Join group chats

Frequently, an event with numerous people will organically produce clusters of individuals discussing a common topic. These people are normally not acquainted – in the same shoes as you – and these thematic groups are open to being joined by any passer-by with interest. Get a taste of the topic discussed by overhearing the conversation, and then walk over and join as a listener. To minimize any awkwardness, smile (applicably). It will show your good intentions.

If the conversation topic is relevant to you, find a moment to insert a thoughtful, open-ended question to a speaker. If it is not, a clarification question would do. People may then ask you about your intentions for participating in the event, which is when you can get value in return. Active group conversations as such can often transform into one-on-one dialogues with someone of more narrow mutual interest, where both parties can gain from the interaction.

5. Exchange contacts

Without it, all you will do is spend a day/evening among strangers. Your goal should be to acquire relevant contact details to expand your network. That does not mean you should pull out your phone to save the number of every person you talk to. Be selective. Some of the people you converse with will be good to keep in touch with for your plan that leads to prosperity. Many times, you will not even be the initiator of the ask, especially if you sprout interest in your character and mission.

I know some people like to hand out business cards. I am not a fan. It may be seen as overly traditional. Plus, your business card faces a higher chance of getting lost by its keeper. If you think of it in terms of the networking journey, someone who has to find your business card and enter your phone number or email is on a longer, more frictional path than someone who has your contacts already saved directly on their phone.

6. Discover your prime targets

There may be hundreds, if not thousands, of attendees at the networking event. You will have a natural limit of time. Therefore, funneling down to your networking targets is vital. Through your convos with various event participants, you will get a chance to find out who are the event organizers and other people of interest. Naturally, your mission should be to connect to those people after identifying them. Unless you focus your attention, you will not get the desired quality of new connections.

It all depends on the purpose of your participation in the event. You are probably not looking to befriend some drinking buddies. Perhaps, you are looking for investors for your business or HR managers for a company that interests you. Hunt them down at the first opportunity!

7. Drop in to say hello

Once you have acquired your target(s), the expected question is “how do I connect with them?” This may seem like a bigger problem than it is. You probably think you have to invent some creative way that gets attention. You don’t. All it takes is a simple introduction, for example:

“Hey! My name is [enter your name]. How are you doing? Just wanted to drop by and get introduced. Are you with [company name]?”

This approach is normally super effective. You show several positive traits by taking it. You make yourself known, show initiative, and portray good intentions. People usually welcome introductions as such. And what is even better is that this type of “icebreaker” builds the pretext for a fruitful conversation. Once you get the chat going, you will make your goals known and understand any opportunities. Just remember number 5!

8. Follow up

To avoid breaking the newly built momentum, make sure to reach out to your new contacts shortly after. It will keep the conversation going. You risk irrelevancy if you reach out more than a week after your first introduction. A networking relationship needs to be cultivated to achieve an effective collaborative bond.

To keep growing your professional network, it is all about rinse and repeat thereafter. There will always be relevant events, some more promising or successful than others. Eventually, you may be able to make yourself stand out as an expert in your field by attending relevant events consistently if that is what you pursue. Do you know any other effective event networking practices? Drop a comment down below!


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