Back when I had just started out blogging, I was new to the whole networking thing.

Networking. You know, heading to an event where you generally only know 1 or 2 people (if that), and the rest are complete strangers?

Yep – those events where you are practically forced to chat to people that you don’t know.

But that’s the point of networking isn’t it? To meet people that you may never have crossed paths with if it hadn’t of been for that particular event, and to make some serious connections.

I used to absolutely HATE networking. Hated it. Despised it actually.

And you know what I did to overcome it? I went along to events anyway and just did it. No matter how bad my anxiety was beforehand, I would remind myself how important going to these events are for business development, and that there is always someone new to meet, a new connection to make or new business opportunity to gain from attending these events.

Now, I don’t LOVE them, but I don’t hate them either. In fact, I recently spoke at a Women’s Collective networking event, something I used to only dream of being able to do back when I was very anti networking.

Attending your first networking event can be daunting, so here are a few tips and tricks that I wish someone had told ME before my first networking night when I was a very shy, first year uni student!

1. It’s always helpful to attend these events with a friend or work colleague. BUT, if you do go at it alone I recommend that upon arrival you do a stroll around the room and survey the atmosphere, before deciding what your next move will be.

2. If it’s a blogger specific event, go into it knowing that you will always have something in common with the others who are attending – your blogs of course!

3. This may be a tough one for some, but you must be prepared to talk about yourself and what you do. In order to answer the “So what do you do” question effectively, have your elevator pitch ready. This way, when someone asks you what you do – you’ve got your answer prepped and ready to go.

4. A great way to network outside of more formal networking events, is to ask someone to meet for coffee. This is usually a quick and effective way of having a power catch up with someone, and generally you only need 15-20 minutes to chat. This way you get quality one-on-one time with that person. If this networking opportunity is for potential future job prospects, then go along prepared with questions and talking points.

5. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile already, click here and make one. LinkedIn can be a really useful resource for those who want to build working relationships, as well as keep up to date with others and what they are doing.

6. Remember that networking shouldn’t just be about talking all things work work work. In order to assist you in progressing ahead in your career, it’s important to keep in mind that those that you network with have lives outside of their office too. Make sure that you really get to know this person, and don’t just contact them only when you need something.

7. In order to avoid being that person who is out of the loop in the conversation and ends up just nodding their head in appreciation, do your research. Read newspapers and magazines, online blogs and opinion posts. Keep informed on topics that are relevant to those who you are networking with. Knowing what’s happening in the world also makes for great conversation starters too!

8. Research who is attending the event. Think about who is hosting the event, what their job role is, and if there was a guest list provided. If you can, have a quick look and see if you recognise any names or people that you may want to connect with at the event.

9. Don’t ever drink too much. Save that for nights out with friends, outside of working hours. Of course help yourself to a complimentary beverage, but if you really want to be taken seriously, avoid going OTT with the champagne.

10. Always introduce yourself to the host or the team who have organised the event you’re attending. I always ensure that these are the first people that I chat to, because there would be no event and no opportunity to network if it wasn’t for them. Always thank them for organising the event, and for inviting you along, as these people have contacts and are the way in which you can continue to connect with people.

11. Take your time to network with people that you may not even have heard of, as you never know who they might be

12. Which leads me to introducing to you the Fourth Person Rule.

For example: Person A is looking for a modelling opportunity. Person A meets Person B at a networking event/party and Person A tells Person B that they are an aspiring model. Person B says that she does not work with models, but she knows people who do…

After the event, Person A follows up with Person B via email, asking Person B to connect her with people that are in the modelling industry. Person B puts Person A onto a representative from a modelling agency (Person C) after giving them a good reference. Person A and Person C get in contact, Person C states that Person B gave them a good reference, and now Person C is interested in connecting with Person A. Person C then tells their client (Person D), and they then call Person A and ask them if they are interested in working together. Person D is the fourth person.

This Fourth Person rule shows that the initial connection and positive interaction between Person A and Person B meant that Person A was able to find future job opportunities.

13. Remember that networking events are also good social media opportunities. If you meet a particular blogger or influencer at an event, get their social handles and give them a follow. By doing this, there could be an abundance of opportunities!

14. Dress to impress (this post had to relate to fashion somehow…). In all seriousness, you need to dress appropriately and try and stand out from the crowd. This doesn’t mean that you need to wear your Lady Gaga jacket, but it does mean you need to steer away from wearing your usual 9-5 uniform. Inject some colour into your look so that you stand out from the crowd, in a good way.

15. Most importantly, just be yourself. No one enjoys listening to people who are clearly putting on a facade and aren’t genuine. By being yourself you will instantly become someone who people are attracted to. Always ensure that you are also polite and considerate.

Now that you’ve got these tips and tricks, try and give networking a go. It may be completely daunting at first but trust me, the more you do it the more confident you will become, and the more opportunities you will receive for your brand/or business in the long run!

Image courtesy of Rambling Range Photography – taken at The Women’s Collective event.