Networking isn’t easy but it’s a very important practice for all professionals to engage in. It can be a challenge to navigate conversations and meet new people, while eating and drinking at a networking event and leave a lasting and positive impression with those you meet. What can you do to manage your reputation and ensure networking success? Take some advice from our F.R.I.E.N.D.S when it comes to reputation management at your next technology networking event.
Mimic Monica and Be the Best Host
A party’s host is responsible for talking to people—especially those standing alone—making introductions, and all-in-all making people feel comfortable. Those are traits of a great networker as well. Embrace a little of Monica’s hosting abilities (but avoid her neat-freak tendencies) by acting like a host at your next event. Having a “hosting” perspective can make you feel more comfortable when going up to talk to people you don’t know, because a good host makes the situation about their guests, not about themselves. You’ll create a favorable reputation for yourself because you are putting their comfort above your own by asking questions and introducing guests to others at the event. In the meantime, you’ll be getting to know and making a good impression on the important connections you came to meet.
Chandler is great at comedic timing and delivering a witty retort. While you might not want to use his line “A grape. Because who can get a watermelon in your mouth?” when grabbing your appetizer, a joke about the event or venue could be just what you need. Most people struggle to walk up to a group of strangers and insert themselves into the conversation. Try an ice breaker like commenting on the event or asking an open ended question, such as, “What got you into IT?” to get the conversation flowing. You can even make a positive remark about the venue. However, don’t offend your audience with the wrong kind of jokes. Keep your openers PC when making new connections to avoid awkward introductions. Prepare yourself for your networking event and make a great, positive impression.
Don’t Jam (Food in Your Face) like Joey
Joey loves his food. He’s always hungry and is known to sit down and eat before saying hi to any of his friends. He’s sometimes pretty messy or even a little gross about it too. Joey’s friends may have accepted his behavior, but you’re unlikely to give a good first impression at your next networking event by following his lead. Instead of arriving hungry, eat before you come so that you aren’t stuffing your face full of food. Talking with your mouth full doesn’t create a great impression and neither do slurred words or tipsy behavior. If you’re clumsy, avoid messy foods that you might spill on yourself. Don’t be afraid to eat a few appetizers or have a glass of beer or wine at the networking event but limiting yourself to two alcoholic beverages throughout the evening is a good rule of thumb. These eating and drinking tips will help people focus on another trait of Joey’s that you might share—what a fun guy!—rather than some potentially reputation damaging behavior.
Resemble Ross and Be an Expert in Your Field
Ross might make his friends start to snore any time he brings up paleontology but give him the right crowd and he’d have people eating out of his hand. After all, one of his students and a fellow paleontologist even fell in love with him Get those at the networking event to “fall in love” with you too. Have a few talking points ready, keep up to date on current industry news, and be ready to ask questions. These behaviors will show that you are an expert in your field and do wonders for your professional reputation. An added benefit of industry conversation is that it will help you avoid oversharing personal information, political conversations, and inappropriate topics by keeping the conversation on a shared interest. It will also give you plenty to talk about to reduce awkward gaps in conversation. Just be sure to have a few different ideas prepared so you don’t put your peers to sleep.
Party Phoebe-style While Honoring your Commitments
Phoebe is great at seeing things to completion. Like the time Monica made her responsible for cups and ice and Phoebe nailed it with her cup streamers and cubed, crushed, and dry ice. Build a great reputation with your ability to follow through. Networking is about making and managing lasting professional connections. When you tell someone you’ll LinkIn with them or send them an email be sure to do it. Not doing so will leave a bad impression. A pro tip: Keep notes about your interactions with a person on their business card so that you can add small details to make your first digital connection a lot more personal. Often it’s the little things, like sending an email the next day, that speak the loudest when it comes to your reputation.
Remember Rachel’s Eye for Appropriate Attire
Rachel may have led Joey astray with the “man bag” but she’s usually a fashion expert. One of the best methods to manage your reputation at a networking event is to dress appropriately. Consider whether you are attending a casual or suit and tie event. Not sure what the event’s dress code is? Send an email to the event’s organizer and ask. If you’re unable to get an answer that way, it’s usually, if not always, best to dress more business than casual. The added benefit is that dressing professionally helps to give you a sense of credibility, confidence, and trust. Whatever the dress code, just be sure you’re not the girl who shows up to the coffee shop wearing a wedding dress. Talk about standing out for all the wrong reasons.
Networking events can be awkward, uncomfortable and feel like a chore but they don’t have to. Done well, they can be an amazing opportunity for your IT career. So whether you’re at a happy hour, an industry group, or work event, make sure you’re managing your reputation and showing yourself in the most favorable light by using the examples from our F.R.I.E.N.D.S.
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