For some, it can be challenging and a little bit daunting, which is why we ensure our HR events are ego free, relaxed and fun. People that don’t value these qualities are probably at some other HR networking event. Leave them there I say!!
According to our recent Corporate & Cocktails Survey, when asked: ‘How confident are you at networking in general?’ 67% of respondents said they were generally ok, but needed to push themselves, with 9% saying they often feel uncomfortable networking. When it came to people either loving networking or it not bothering them, this accounted for only 24%. This shows that for over 75% of HR people that responded, networking doesn’t come easily.
So, if you are one of the HR professionals that struggle a bit with networking, here are some top tips to make you feel more at ease.
My overriding message though is just be ‘you’, as most new attendees will be feeling the same as you are, so will only be too grateful for a chat!
So… you’re new to our events and arrive at the venue. We know that walking in can often be the hardest part right?
Make an entrance
The first person you’re likely to see is either me (the host!) or the person on the registration/sign-in desk. We’re both great people to speak to first, as we typically know most of the attendees and can help introduce you to people. If I’m not around, the person on the registration desk can point you in my direction. Come and speak to me and let me introduce you to others.
It’s tempting if you don’t know anyone to make a beeline for the bar – well that’s ok! Grab a drink, but then head towards someone and just say ‘Hi I’m …….’ . A great opener is ‘Have you been to an event before’?, then have chat about where you both work and let the conversation flow… i.e. ‘where are you based’? ‘How many people are in your team or company’? Etc etc.
Bingo, you’ve just made your first connection. You have your buddy, now go and speak to someone else (or a group), either on your own, or better still with your buddy. Then two can become three and so on and so forth!
A great rule of thumb is to arrive early, so you can ease into speaking to a few people first. Then when it gets busier you’ve already made some connections and warmed up!
Speaking to groups that have already formed
It’s totally fine to join a group and just hang back and listen to what is being said. When you feel there’s a natural opening, speak up and get involved. Before that point, you can still appear engaged whilst listening.
Sometimes you may come across a group that may already know each other i.e. work colleagues, and then you quickly realise that they’re not talking HR, but talking about what’s happened socially to them recently or they are catching up on personal stuff. You mustn’t take it personally if you can’t break into the conversation. Try and pick up on something in common i.e. places, situations etc. If they are totally engulfed in personal stuff, just move on and have another go later on in the evening. Don’t feel deflated, it’s nothing that you’ve done and it’s not a sign that you’re not interesting!
One key thing to remember is that you’re not going to have a natural connection with everyone. If the conversation is very ‘stop start’ or you find you don’t have that much in common, there’s no harm in politely moving on.
One of the key skills in networking is being able to move around the room and to break away politely from someone or a group of people.
It’s easy to just keep talking to the same person or stay within the same group right? Yeah, but if you do this, you’re not going to benefit from other peoples insight and knowledge and you’re not putting the event to its best use. The next person you speak to could be your future HR work colleague or they could give you some valuable advice and guidance.
You won’t be offending someone if you decide to move on. The key is to not wander off mid conversation.
Below are a few example of how to do this. Oh, it’s always a good idea to acknowledge how nice it was talking to them and that you’ll hopefully have another chat later on in the evening.
Some ways of moving on…….
“I’ve just seen a friend walk in”
“I’ve just seen someone who I haven’t seen in ages”
“I’m going to get something to eat”
“I need to catch up with the host”
“I need to speak to that supplier”
“I’d better go and mingle “
When it comes to leaving the event, there’s no right or wrong way. Some people often feel uncomfortable when the group is small, as you don’t know whether to give everyone double kisses or just say “see you everyone” with a little wave gesture. Trust me; the only person who is thinking about this is you. If you spoke to someone a lot during the evening you may want to say ‘good night’ personally and then make your exit. No one is judging you and often people have to leave at different times in the evening anyway due to transport, family responsibilities etc.
We’re a very informal and relaxed group!
Although I’ve given you some tips, this is just to make you feel a bit easier about networking. You’ll find it’s not that hard and things will naturally flow, as we’re all friendly and welcoming. You’ll have an amazing and fun time.
In our recent survey, 50% of people who have attended one of our events now socialise outside our events with someone they have met at our events. While 96% either go to all our events or mostly all of them. Plus, 87% have recommended us to their HR colleagues and connections. So we are doing something right!