Here are some very actionable and specific tips to maximize your time while attending Connections, our monthly networking mixer that takes place the third Thursday of each month at one of the most desirable venues in Tampa. For an updated list of dates & events, click here.
Before all Tampa YPA events, you will be able to view a list of sponsors who will be in attendance via the event page. Take some time to do research on those who will be there, and don’t be afraid to reach out to introduce yourself via LinkedIn prior. When requesting to connect, sending a brief note along the lines of “I see we both will be in attendance for Connections III on the 20th. I look forward to learning more about you and your company, and how we can potentially help each other.” could make sense if you offer a product/service that aligns with that individual. If you are interested in potentially working for a company that will be in attendance, understand that Connections is a networking mixer, not a job fair. While it is possible to hit a networking home run, and have a hiring manager/decision maker want to hire you on their team, the reality is you have to first plant a seed and build a relationship. Tweaking the above message, mentioning your interest in Company X, and sharing you look forward to learning more about them (the person) and the company will be enough for a LinkedIn request. Do not take it personal if the person does not accept the request before the event. People are busy, and everyone does not check their LinkedIn daily. There are also some people who want to actually meet in-person, have a conversation, and then mutually agree it is a connection there before they virtually connect with you.
It can seem intimidating to walk into a room and see all these people talking, and assume everyone knows everyone. Well after attending dozens of networking events over the years in various cities throughout the country, I can assure you this is not the case. Most people there feel the same way as you do. They may have found out about TYPA from a current member, and have a common connection, however ultimately everyone is there with at least one common goal – to meet new people. Going up to someone, introducing yourself and shaking their hand is always a good move to get a conversation started, which then leads into tip number two…
Ask the Three W’s
So you have walked up to someone in the room, or perhaps while waiting for your drink at the bar introduce yourself to the person next to you. Always, always, always remember the 3 W’s of networking (in other words, ask these after the introductions):
- Where do you work?
- What do you do?
- What brings you here?
Where do you work? – Most people can talk about themselves for hours, as after all, they are the subject matter experts on the topic. When you ask someone you just met where they work, that business professional, should be excited to share a little about their company (if self-employed) or employer, and the role they play.
What do you do? – Most people enjoy talking about their career, how they made it to their current company and position, and what they do. If you allow them time to speak, not only will you be utilizing one of the most important tools of a networking event (active listening), you also will provide your new connection an opportunity to build rapport with you, as once they are done sharing, they will inevitably ask you the same questions. Along the way, you may find some common ground uncovered, perhaps in education, prior employment, people or places you both are familiar with, etc. A TYPA networking event brings young professionals together from various industries, however it’s a small world out here, and you may realize there is more common ground with that big room of people than you could have imagined.
What brings you here? – The most important question during your interaction with a new connection. This question really allows the person you are speaking too to convey the objective they have for the event. Expect people to share what they are working on in their business, and you can see if there is opportunity for you two to potentially work together now or in the future. You may also uncover that you both are there due to your common interests in a charitable cause that TYPA and/or #TampaGivesBack is partnering with. That conversation can turn from purely business to volunteer, which either way builds a brand new valuable connection.
Make sure above all, you take time to learn as much about the person you are speaking with as the company they work for or job they do. If you connect with someone and find out information about where they’re from or where they went to college builds a human connection which takes everyone out of the robotic networking dialogue that many feel uncomfortable with. If after that connection, you both feel it makes sense to stay in contact, make sure you ask to keep in touch. The most efficient way is via LinkedIn, however the more traditional route would be to exchange business cards. As TYPA events continue to grow, you will find your time is limited, and 2.5 hours of networking goes by pretty fast. The objective of Connections is to make introductions with individuals whom you could later build on your discussion at lunch or coffee.