By Nancy Arnold

Some of us are social beings and look forward to networking events. Others get a little anxious at the thought of 2 + hours of schmoozing with mostly strangers.  For those of you in the latter group here are some great tips to help you.

Choose wisely. Establish your purpose first. Are you looking for job? Recruiting for your company? Looking to meet potential clients? By figuring out why you are going it will help you know what you should attend.

Research the host/sponsor. Find out what the company is all about and who will attend the event. If there’s going to be a question and answer period find out who is on the panel and prepare a few questions to ask. It’s a great way to demonstrate interest and professionalism.

Show up on time. Being the first to arrive will give you time to do some reconnaissance. You might be able to scope out the guest list, do some last minute research on your phone, catch the sponsors for a chat before everyone arrives, as well as check out the lay of the land.

Be memorable. One way to achieve this is to add some statement pieces to your outfit. This gives people a safe and easy way to approach you. It could be as simple as special scarf or tie. It’s just needs to be something people will remark on. The more authentic you are and let your personality shine through in appearance and conversation, the more authentic connections you will make.

Custom business cards. Make sure you create custom business cards people want to keep. Also be choosey with who you hand them out to. If you genuinely feel like this person will be a beneficial contact, offer your card. If you aren’t feeling it, hang on to your card and wait for a better lead.

Stand in line. If you find yourself alone, don’t panic. Instead, head to the drink line or food line to buy some time. Start up a conversation with something like, “Any drink recommendations?” You may end up creating a substantial conversation.

Listen more than you talk. Remember you can learn a lot when you listen and that when you talking, you are essentially just relaying information you already know. Aim for a 50/50 ratio but an 80/20 (listening/talking) ration is ideal.

Exit strategy. This is critical in order to get out of a conversation that has run its course. For example:

Hey listen I need to head to the restroom. It’s been great chatting with you. Enjoy the evening.


I’m going to go refill my drink. I’ll catch up with you later. Nice meeting you.

You don’t want to waste your limited time or energy. There’s always one person who will talk your ear off all night if you let them.

It’s easy to thrive at your next networking event.  With practice, you’ll master these events while getting the most out of them.

Nancy Arnold is a Seattle area small business blogger who enjoys networking events in moderation and has fabulous business cards. You can follow her on twitter @BizBuzzNancy.