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5 things I Learnt from My First Networking Event
Recent stats state that 1 in 4 don’t currently network at all – a surprising amount! Networking is essential in any industry but you could argue it is even more so in the tech/start- up scene. The more people you connect with, the more likely you are to be introduced to a new client or contact and the more sustainable your business will become. It’s also a great way to expand your knowledge, learn from the success of others and stay up to date on technology and business trends.
Attending networking events with Blu Sky are a regular occurrence – breakfasts, lunches, showcases, dinners – you name any tech event in the North East and it’s likely one of the team will be there! Recently, I mustered up the courage to volunteer to go to my first networking event, and thought I’d share 5 things I learnt along the way:
At Blu Sky our blue hoodies are a big part of our #BeBlu brand – so it was only natural that it would be my attire for the day. With the added bonus of being super comfortable – the hoodies themselves were a great talking point at the event! Despite being a new face amongst regular attendees, I felt welcomed by comments that they’d “seen the blue hoodies around at most events”.
Walking into a room full of strangers is daunting and personally, it’s something I naturally shy away from. But everyone there is in the same position and they’re all there for the same reason – to broaden their social network. One of the key things for me was that I was there representing a great company (not biased at all!) – surely everyone else was too!
One of the things which can be worrying is seeing huddles of people having great conversations and not knowing your way in. But in fact, going over, saying hello and introducing yourself is easier than you think – what’s the worst that can really happen? Going into the event, I thought it would be all business/tech talk but more general questions really are the best way to break the ice. Within my first 5 minutes at the event I ended up in a conversation as to what’s the best sauce in a sausage sandwich (red, obviously…).
At times during the event whilst our resident Marketing Guru, Sam, chatted away, I made sure I was smiling, nodding and maintaining eye contact. I learnt it’s okay to listen and then add to the conversation when you can – you don’t have to be shouting over anyone. I’m a good listener and I made sure this showed – looking engaged gives a great impression and a strong start to the connection.
I found it best to not “work the room” – instead I had the aim of having good conversations with a select few. I wasn’t there with the aim of collecting as many business cards as possible but to chat to some interesting people doing very interesting things. After all, it’s not a competition!
All in all, I can safely say that my first networking event was an enjoyable experience. My main takeaway was that in reality, networking is just a bunch of people who do exciting things having a chat. Oh and that there will likely be free food – always a bonus!
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