Volume 5, Issue 5

July 2016

Blue Ridge Conference

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October 5 - 7, 2016

Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership

Black Mountain, NC

From scared to superstar:

How to master the networking event    

Teresa White

President, Aflac U.S.

Picture yourself walking alone into a large room filled with strangers. Everyone is dressed in business attire, casually chatting, beverage in hand. You slap on a name tag and scan the room for someone familiar or at least not already reeled into conversation. Welcome to a (gulp) business networking event.

For many, networking events can be daunting. Effective networking is important to opening career doors that may otherwise remain closed.

I’ve learned a couple of tips that help ease anxiety associated with these events and help you have a good experience.

Arrive early. I think one of the most frightening things about these events is the idea that there won’t be anyone to talk to or trying to break into the middle of a conversation. If you arrive early, you can position yourself to meet others as they walk in, which will make kicking off an initial conversation a breeze. After all, they are there for the same reasons you are, to meet other professionals.

Set expectations. It’s important to prep yourself beforehand by understanding what you are there to do. Are you hoping to meet a specific person? Is your goal to meet five new people? Do you want to learn more about a specific industry sector or new company? Setting a goal will help you feel like the event was worth your time.

Be genuine. Take a deep breath and try to be yourself. It’s normal for people to turn their energy dials up a notch at these events, but don’t try to be someone you think others will want to meet. Being authentic will kick off relationships that you’ll want to continue.

Do NOT “work the room.” People can sense when you’re only interested in grabbing their card and leaving, so avoid trying to meet everyone. Stick to meeting a few people and having meaningful dialogue. This will be far more memorable to you both later on.

Take notes. Getting a business card from someone is a great start, but it means nothing if you can’t remember what you talked about. Don’t be afraid to take notes on their business card or on a notepad after you walk away or immediately after the event. These notes will help you after the event when you follow up with your new connection.

Now picture yourself again: You arrive early for the networking event. You walk into the room alone and strike up a conversation with a stranger who also just arrived. More people trickle in as the minutes pass, and several join your conversation. You share your background with each person, sometimes holding short side conversations with a new addition. Before you know it, you’ve gotten to know five new people who all know more than just your name. Afterwards, you jot a couple of notes about each and use those notes to follow up with an email the next day. Two of your new connections invite you for coffee to talk about how your skills might be a good fit for projects they are working on.

Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Teresa White

President, Aflac U.S.


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