networking

August 8, 2017, by Grace Pownall

Face-To-Face Networking for the First Time? 5 Tips and Tricks

By Grace Pownall, third year, MEng Hons Civil Engineering

This summer, I decided to invest some time into growing my professional network by attending two conferences at the Institution of Structural Engineers. One specifically for young engineers and one focusing on sustainability, very relevant to my final-year dissertation.

Walking up the stairs to a conference room full of strangers – mostly graduates and professionals, all more experienced and knowledgeable than me – felt quite daunting. Here are my top five tips if you face a similar experience:

1. Be approachable

Try to mingle as soon as you arrive. If there are lots of people chatting in groups already, don’t panic – just smile and make eye contact with people as you move around the room. My tactic was to find another person on their own, approach them and introduce myself. Take it one person at a time.

2. Make small talk

Don’t panic and launch into a full-on sales pitch about yourself. Ask people where they’ve come from, who they work for, or why they came today. Be sure to make it an equal exchange. Talk about what you’re passionate about and you might find someone with similar interests – I met several people who were interested in my dissertation title who offered me help and advice!

3. Find a friend

Maybe you struck up a conversation in the queue for lunch or sat next to them in a seminar. Check in with those people throughout the day, ask them how they’re enjoying the event and what they found interesting. But, don’t limit yourself to these people; keep networking and mingling throughout the day.

4. Take some space

Whether you find social interaction draining or invigorating, take moments throughout the day for yourself. Let your brain process the information you have learned, remember the people you have met, and reflect on the experience.

5. Follow up online

networking at conferences

If there are certain delegates who you had a particular connection with or conversations you would like to continue further, don’t be afraid to ask for an email address or if you can add them on LinkedIn. If the conference has a Twitter hashtag, contribute to it and share your experience. You can’t meet everyone in one day, so extend the event by taking it online.

Networking is a great way to find opportunities, but if you find it daunting, don’t worry you’re not alone. You can find information about face-to-face networking on the careers website. 

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