Tips and Preparation
Before you go
- Create more opportunities and build connections by carrying business cards with you. Remember to use good judgment when giving out your card--wait for the right moment.
- Review the panelists' information. Learn about the people who will be attending, so that you can come up with conversation topics/questions. Check out their websites, Google them, and look at their LinkedIn profiles.
- What aspects of the panelists' experiences are you most interested in? Is it their transition, what they did to prepare themselves, or how their current role? Thinking about what you hope to gain from your interactions with these panelists will help you to formulate good questions for them.
- Come up with specific questions that encourages them to elaborate their experiences in detail.
- First impressions matter. If you are interested in networking, it would be good to think about the kind of messages communicated by the way you dress.
- It's pretty much guaranteed that someone will ask you this question: "What do you do?" It is helpful to think about how you would answer that question outside of your "student" role, especially to someone who is not in your field or shares the same research interests.
- Remember that building networks with your peers is important too! You never know what kinds of connections you will make by engaging in conversation with people with diverse interests.
At the event
- Focus on building connections, listening, and learning from the experiences of others.
- Take some time to scan the room, and take a deep breath before you step into the crowd. This small pause may give you a chance to see someone you know, find the host, or pick a friendly group to approach.
- When you see someone standing alone, go over and introduce yourself. After you have chatted for a few minutes maybe you will both go and meet some new people, or others will join you.
- Look for a friendly group and approach them. Try to find a group that seems to be having a general conversation, not one where someone is in the middle of a story. When there is a break in the conversation, this is your moment to become part of the conversation.
- Be confident. Many people stand slightly behind, waiting for an invitation. Remember that the group of individuals probably also just met one another so although you might feel like "the odd one out", have confidence that after a few minutes you will be part of the conversation.
- The entrance to a room is the best place to meet people or start a group. Avoid the back of the room, and along the wall. Come early and then from this prime location, greet people as they arrive.
- One of the easiest places to start conversation? Where the food is! It's an instant conversation starter.
- It is always tempting to stick with the person you arrived with. While it might feel comfortable, it limits your opportunities to make new connections. Use this opportunity to go meet new people, and then reconnect later to introduce the people you met.
- Always remember to smile!
- Be curious and practice active listening. The best way to learn from people is to ask questions about their experience. Think about using these sentence stems to phrase your question:
- I'm interested in hearing more about your experience in/with...
- What is one key lesson from your role/experience as...
- What advice would you give for someone looking for....
- Could you elaborate a little further on...
- What was your biggest challenge in...
After the event
- Follow up with any connections you made at the event, in an online forum (such as LinkedIn). When you connect, make sure you remind them where you met so they can remember your conversations.
- If you want to connect further with someone, this is a great time to request an informational interview.
- If you didn't get a chance to talk to a panelist, you can still connect with them through LinkedIn. Remember to specify the event and mention what it is about them that interests you, or what interests you share. This will help them understand why you want to get connected.
- Remember, networking is not about expanding the number of connections you have on LinkedIn. It's about building professional relationships which flow both ways. For example, if you find something that you think they would be interested in, connect with them to share it. Over time the relationship may flourish.