Networking: You don’t need to be anyone other than you

June 27, 2016 Tracy Skochil

If you love networking, this article isn’t for you.

Still reading? Cool. We’re going to assume two things: one, you’re not a huge fan of networking. Two: since you’re still reading this, you likely have a networking event coming up that you have to attend, so you’re trying to get ahead of the issue. (If you’re an extrovert who loves networking, seriously, you should stop reading now.)

You Don’t Have to Love It, But You Have to Try

Don’t worry, we’re not here to tell you that you should love networking. Some people don’t. In fact, some people detest, dread, fear, and downright hate the idea of having to schmooze, network, or be social with folks at conferences and events. And that’s completely fine. But if you’ve invested dollars and time into attending an event on behalf of your higher education institution, you need to make the most of it. Some tips:

Find Common Ground

Remember: the other person may be just as nervous/quiet/networking-averse. Try breaking the ice with something really simple, like: “Hi, I’m Kristy, it’s my third time at NASFAA, how about you?”

Set Manageable Goals

You don’t have to become best friends with every person in the room. But if you aim to talk to one new person in each room/session/event you attend, you’re making progress.

Arrive Early

Does the idea of walking into a full room where everyone turns to watch you make you nervous? Easy solution: get there early. You’ll be able to sit or stand where you want, and new people who enter may gravitate toward you because they prefer company as you both wait for the event to start.

Focus On Them

The more you get the other person to do the talking, the less you have to talk yourself.  Before heading to your event, come up with a few open-ended questions that can work in multiple situations. For example: How did you get started in Financial Aid? What has your favorite thing been so far at this year’s conference? What projects are on the roadmap for you this year?

Leverage Extroverts

Extroverts are awesome. They can usually talk to anyone in a crowd, and have no qualms about group participation events and crowd interaction events. If you meet an Extrovert, you may have similar conference session interests. Partnering up with an extrovert means you can do what you do best (listen) while the extrovert strikes up new convos with other folks. Win-win!

Know Your Pitch

Yes, this feels super salesy. But think about it: people are going to ask you who you are and what you do—or why you’re at the event. Knowing your answer beforehand makes life easier. Are you at NASFAA to learn how to create a mobile experience for students? Say that. Being clear about your goals can help other folks steer you toward resources they feel can help you.

Bring Business Cards

The easiest way to get out of a conversation? “This is such a great thing to discuss, but I really have to make my way to the next session. How about we exchange business cards and stay in touch?” Because we all know most introverts prefer texting or email communication, right?

Pure transparency moment: All of our tips came from the below articles. They’re well worth a read!

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