When I think back to my first networking event, I remember spending a lot of time in the bathroom. Because I was really hydrated? No. Because it’s how I avoided the networking portion of the networking event. And while Lukas Treu, Lead, Content Strategy with AKHIA, didn’t use the same coping mechanism, he remembers his first networking events being weird and awkward – as he puts it, though, “I think that’s a universal thing.”

In the latest installment of AKHIA’s My First Time podcast, Lukas and I talk about our first networking events and share some tips for making your next networking event less weird and awkward because, well, networking is important. As a recent AdAge article says, “At a certain point in everyone’s career, the benefits of networking are undeniable. Who can’t credit a contact with having found us a new job, or improving our work with a good piece of advice?”

It even goes beyond that. Networking can lead to new business, new business partners, new employees or, on a personal level, new friends. Here are some tips that I’ve picked up that anyone can use:

Before the Event

  • Pick events with a format / location / topic that work best for you. Events are held at different times of the day (lunch, after work, or the occasional pre-work event), have varying formats (networking only v. networking and a presentation), and are held in various parts of town. Plenty of options out there to best fit your personal style and comfort level.
  • Come armed with conversation topics to start conversations or fill in lulls–e.g. questions to ask, current events, industry trends, etc.
  • Also come armed with business cards. I’ve actually been told to never leave home without them; you never know when you could meet your next great connection.

At the Event

  • Arrive early. This gives you the chance to start the conversations which can be easier than joining a conversation already in progress
  • Bring a colleague or friend along with you. Don’t just talk to them, though. The two of you can pair up to talk to new folks, and the folks they know, and so on.
  • When you get a business card, write a quick note about what you discussed on the back of the card.

After the Event

  • Follow up, and also lay the groundwork for future events. Send an email or LinkedIn connection request to those you connected with. Form follow-ups are very transparent, and less likely to garner a response, though, so make it personal. Touch on some of the topics you discussed, by referring back to notes you wrote on their business card. Also, mention any future events you’re attending that they may be attending as well.

Looking for more networking tips? Hear more in our latest “My First Networking Event” podcast discussion. Thinking more along the lines of an in-person presentation? We can come to you, too. Contact your account team or Ben Brugler (ben@akhia.com) if you’re interested!

Jen Brawner is Senior Account Executive at AKHIA.