Re-Entry is Tough. Getting Back Your Networking Groove.

Many of us are coming back from the Labor Day Weekend– the unofficial end of summer. This is one of the harder times of year for me, personally. I love the relaxed schedules and warm weather that summer brings to my household. But, time marches on and I know it’s time to get my networking groove back. The first one is usually the hardest for me. So I try to make the most of it and dig right in.

If you are feeling a little apprehensive about attending events again, this post is for you.

Strong relationships drive business and those connections are best built in-person. The reality is that infusing new people into your network is often tougher online than in-person. So the good news for network development is that in-person events are back in strength for 2023. I guess it’s true… as the saying goes… “time heals all things” so let’s get busy! It is time to say hello to pre-2020 style cocktail parties, lunches, dinners and coffees as a tool for business development.

But maybe in-person networking has never been easy for you and it feels more stressful to fit it into a hybrid work schedule. But you can go back to networking events with grace and make the most of it using the following tips.

First order of business: a mind shift.

Try not to think of networking as a chore, but more like an opportunity to meet new people and uncover burgeoning topics. Try reframing networking into a chance to make new friends who have something in common with you by just being in the same room. It takes some practice (and maybe some force) but it does help get you out the door.

Making new connections will help you expand your contacts who may further develop your career or practice in positive ways. You need to choose to build your network with the people you find interesting, are willing to get to know you, and are also interested in building their networks.

Meeting people isn’t just for your benefit. In fact, it works much better if you look for ways to help others. Bring someone with you to your networking events and work the room together, making introductions for each other. When you meet someone new, ask questions to uncover ways you may help the people you meet. Can you provide some knowledge that gives answers to their questions, or can you be a sounding board for ideas? Give away your knowledge, make connections for people, and make it clear you want to talk with them again. Trust me… your good faith efforts will always come back to you in ways you could not anticipate.

Networking is always more productive if you know what you want to get out of your effort. Before attending an event, find out who is signed up to attend. Figure out who you want to meet and what you will say to those individuals. Refresh your quick pitch so that it’s easy to answer questions about who you are and what you do. Read the latest news and understand what it means to the people you will see. It can be very helpful to prepare a few questions as conversation starters and enders.  And remember, it’s always great to ask people about themselves. All of this preparation will help you to feel at ease, giving you confidence to work the room.

It’s quite simple. Don’t go to a networking event pretending to be something or someone you are not. Authenticity is critical to productive relationship development. Be who you are, listen to others intently and always do what you say you will do. The rest will follow.

Keep track of the people you meet and jot down some notes about your conversations. After the event, reflect on who you met and identify the person (or people) who you felt most at ease with and see the most opportunity to reconnect with. Reach out to those folks on LinkedIn with a reminder as to where you met. Invite individuals to go out for coffee or meet via zoom for 15 minutes to further your conversations. Then, the next time you go to a networking event, invite them to join you. Before you know it, you will develop a new friendship and professional relationship.

Reflect on the networking event you attended, identifying what went well and where you could improve. Build on your momentum and sign up for the next event. Build on your successes by inviting the people you met to join you. And of course, walk through all of these steps again. Each event will get a little easier with preparation and practice.

And, very importantly, don’t forget to congratulate yourself for being back in the game!