1. Stop Saying Networking
Reconfigure what you think when you hear the word “networking.” In fact, scratch that word altogether, and think of your next networking event as an “open exchange”—one with no pressure and plenty of opportunity. At an “open exchange,” you’re free to share ideas, contacts, information, and resources with tons of interesting people. The prospects that inspires are boundless, and it doesn’t cost much more than a conversation. Already sounds better, right?
2. Choose Non-Lame Events
Don’t just go to any old event—choose events where you know you’ll have something in common with people, like conferences that relate specifically to your industry or happy hours put on by your alumni association. It’s much easier to make conversation in these groups than it is at more general events.
3. Or, Host Your Own!
Email 10 of your friends, suggest a place and date, and ask each person to bring someone new. To keep the event more professional, you could plan a structured conversation about everyone’s career goals, status of their job satisfaction, or even current industry trends.
Instead of just attending an event, “volunteer to help with raffles or name tags. It’ll give you an excuse to talk to people, and that makes it much easier to follow through and be social. Plus you never know whom you’ll meet.”
5. Think Outside the Networking Event
Remember, not all networking has to happen at cocktail hour types of events. In fact, some of the most interesting relationship-building can happen elsewhere. See if there’s a conference you can attend, a hackathon you can participate in, or even a project you can help with. These sorts of events will put you in a much more collaborative environment that will allow you to get to know people in a different way than by simply drilling them with questions.