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How to be More Authentic At Networking Events

Whether you dread networking events or look forward to meeting new professional contacts, there’s a right way and a wrong way to carry yourself at these gatherings. No matter your professional goals, you should always aim to be as authentic and genuine as possible. When you prioritize authenticity, you’ll get more from the event and make beneficial connections and long-lasting relationships.

Use these tips to take your networking to the next level. Your hard work will pay off in years to come, after making genuine connections with people who can truly add value to your professional network.

Be Yourself

This tip comes with a caveat: while you want to be yourself, you need to put your best foot forward and be the best version of yourself. You need to maintain a level of professionalism, but try to relax and let your personality shine through. 

When you do this, your conversations will feel less forced and awkward and you will feel more confident and comfortable. “Don’t try to be the person you think others want to meet,” advises Darrah Brustein with Forbes. “Be genuine. The people you connect with when you are authentic are the ones you’ll want to stay in touch with.” 

When you’re true to yourself, you’ll connect with people who have common interests and professional ambitions. You never know if you might work with one of these people in the future, so it’s important to show them who you really are from the start. 

Quality Over Quantity: Make Real Connections

The goal of a networking event is not to introduce yourself to as many people as possible and pass out your stack of business cards: “Yes, networking is about getting your name, face, and business card out there into the world,” according to Adrian Granzella Larssen from The Muse. 

Larssen continues, “But more importantly, it’s about making real connections. So, relax, be yourself, and think more about just engaging with other people than about what you’re going to ask or say next.” 

Instead of trying to talk to everyone, have meaningful conversations with a handful of people. Ask questions and take a genuine interest in the people you talk to. Stay engaged in the conversation instead of scanning the room for other opportunities. 

When you make genuine connections instead of trying to work the room, you’re more likely to meet people worth talking to. This is more valuable than introducing yourself to people who will never remember you.  

Note: As a rule of thumb, only give your card to people who ask for it. 

Be of Service Instead of Being Self Serving

People attend networking events for a number of reasons: to find a job, advance their career or meet like-minded people. The problem arises when people are too focused on themselves and personal gain. You may have a personal or professional agenda, but it’s still important to focus on how you can help others as opposed to what they can do for you. 

"When first meeting someone you think could be helpful, offer your services first,” suggests to Ted Rollins, global entrepreneur and Co-Chairman and Founding Principal of Valeo Groupe. “Ask: What do you need help with right now? What do you see yourself needing the most support with in the future? Being authentic with connections and always trying to provide greater value makes them more likely to do the same for you. This sets the foundation for a strong network that is instrumental for everyone involved.”

You will make a much stronger first impression if you focus on being of service. Instead of asking for something, offer your services, advice or expertise. The favor will be appreciated, and likely returned when you need it most.

Follow-Up

Being authentic isn’t just about what you do during the event, but also how you act when the event is over. If you told someone you would follow up with an email or phone call, do so within 72 hours. Jot down notes after the event, noting details about people you met (try NimbusCard). This will make your follow-up email less generic, allowing you to include something specific you discussed or learned about that person. 

Networking takes time away from your busy schedule, so make each event worthwhile. Use these tips to build authentic relationships that will pay off for many years to come.     

Guest Blog By Jessica Thiefels

Jessica has been writing for more than 10 years has managed a number of employees in her various roles. She now owns her own consulting business and has been featured on Forbes and Business Insider. She regularly writes for StartupNation, Manta, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 and connect on LinkedIn.

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