2023 is set to be a big year for in-person networking. With many major conferences and events coming back for the first time since COVID it’s sure to be an interesting and exciting time for sales and other networking-based professions.
But 2023 is a different world than 2020 - almost everything, it seems, has changed. And this includes how people network. For those about to swim back into the networking pool here are some useful tips that will help you make genuine connections and create real value.
2023 networking tips
In-person networking can be a valuable way to meet new people, share ideas and resources, and potentially find job opportunities or business opportunities. It can also be a great way to learn from and be mentored by more experienced professionals, and to get advice and guidance as you navigate your career or business.
Before getting into our top 10 in-person networking tips, reminder to consider using a digital business card at your next event. Digital business cards make exchanging information with new connections quick and easy. Plus they’re far more effective than paper business cards which usually end up in the trash.
People can sense when you're not being sincere, so be authentic and genuine in your interactions. Show a genuine interest in getting to know others and what they do. You’ll never know how your skills and interests can connect with others unless you give them the space to be open with you, and until you are open with them. Then - and only then - can real, valuable relationships grow.
Research the event or organization you'll be attending and have a clear idea of what you hope to get out of it. You don’t have to go too deeply in-the-weeds when it comes to event-specific preparation, but you should know the basics of where you are and, ideally, have some talking points related to the subject or focus of the event.
Be a good listener
Good networking involves more than just talking about yourself. In fact, you should talk about yourself as little as possible. This doesn’t mean be vague. Clarity is best when its concise. So prepare to explain to people who you are, and what you do. But then do your best to show that you’re interested in THEM you do this first by active listening - and through active listening genuine (and engaging) questions will naturally arise.
Have (and practice) a clear and concise elevator pitch
Have a brief, concise, and engaging summary of what you do and what you're looking for ready to share with others. Try to put some of your own flavor on your pitch. Describe yourself in a way that is unique to you - but also remember that you want people to actually understand what you’re saying. So don’t be too outlandish with the words you use. Simplicity is best. Being overly complex is usually a red flag that shows either uncertainty or insecurity. Have confidence in who you are and what you do.
Whether you’re talking to a CEO or a college grad treat everyone as fellow humans and simply tell them what you do. That’s it - that’s the key to a successful elevator pitch. This is more true in 2023 then ever when people are very much “over” egotistical personalities. You don’t have to inflate yourself these days. Just be honest and have confidence in your honesty and people will appreciate that more than you’d ever expect.
Be open to unexpected opportunities
Networking can lead to unexpected opportunities, so be open to exploring new ideas and connections that come your way. Yes, it’s good to have some idea of what might be a positive outcome before you enter an event. Perhaps you’re looking for a job in customer service. BUT, maybe something presents itself in marketing. Don’t shut down just because it’s not exactly what you were looking for. Be open to all opportunities and follow your gut.
2023 is a time where self-expression is bigger then it’s been since the 60s. This is a great and beautiful thing. You can still express yourself while being professional. It’s not an either-or choice. Just make sure that you aren’t IDENTIFYING yourself with your appearance. In other words, if you associate yourself too much with how you look you will naturally feel resistance when it comes to something as simple as, say, not wearing an inappropriately casual shirt.
For instance, Is everyone else at a networking event wearing a button down? Does this IRK you that you feel pressured to wear one as well. This is a problem - not with the event, but with your over-identification with your appearance. Wear a button down if that’s what you should do - SO WHAT! Wear the button down and then, if you want, put a cool pin or something on the shirt if you want to add some flare. Either way, it's not about what you're wearing - it's about who you ARE. You can be yourself in Armani just as well as Kirkland.
Take the initiative to approach people and introduce yourself. Remember, people are much more open at networking events then they may be otherwise. Stay calm, wear a smile and simply walk up to people and say hello. Try introducing yourself to someone who isn’t talking to others. Maybe it’s someone standing in the corner who is seemingly being ignored. Go up to THAT person and say hello. They may be very grateful for your kindness and you never know who they might be. Remember don’t be a predator when you’re at in-person networking events. The time for predatory networking behavior is long gone - 2023 is a brave new world, one where being genuine, authentic, and really trying to see others is the best way to success.
BUT...Don’t be overly-aggressive
This tip must be paired with being bold. Yes, be bold - but don't be too pushy: While it's important to be proactive in networking, make sure not to be too pushy or aggressive. Respect others' boundaries and be mindful of their time.
Know your goals
Before attending an event, think about what you hope to accomplish. This can help you focus your efforts. Knowing your goals doesn’t mean being closed minded to unexpected opportunities it just means knowing, for instance, that you’re going to X event to meet people who work at companies where you might want to work. Or to see what’s out there and share your skills with fellow entrepreneurs.
Don’t just connect, FOLLOW UP
Often, the most valuable networking takes place before or after the main event, when you have more time to have in-depth conversations with people. Make sure to arrive early or stay late to take advantage of these opportunities. Also follow ups are incredibly important. A simple note to someone you connected with like “Nice meeting you the other days” can go a long way. The Popl app is a really useful way to manage all your follow-ups and new connections.
Want more networking tips?
- How to networking | An introduction to networking
- How to act at networking events
- Creative networking tips that really work