At its heart, hacking is all about finding ways to improve our lives, whether that’s by improving infrastructure, finding a new way to provide services, or figuring out how to get the most bang for your buck.
Hacks allow us to do more with less and provide some much-needed support, which is something everyone needs more of during the holidays when faced with countless friendsgivings and professional holiday parties.
These can be overwhelming for even the staunchest of networkers, but never fear — I’ve got some excellent tips for you that will help you seize these golden nuggets of opportunity and hack your way into success by the New Year!
1. Know the Event
As simple as this sounds, half the time folks don’t really know why they are attending the events they are attending. So set some goals:
- If it’s a happy hour and members from your leadership will be there, aim to talk to at least one new leadership person who doesn’t know you.
- If it’s a holiday party with a wide range of guests, investors, and stakeholders, make the goal of walking away with 5 new contacts whom you actually might want to engage with about your work after the event.
- If it’s a holiday party with a narrow scope of guests (for example, all biotechnology companies) plan to make conversation with at least 1–2 new contacts.
Once these goals are set, it’s so much easier to come to an event with a purpose and then be able to leave the event once the tasks are complete.
2. Nothing to Lose
More times than I can count, I have been “that person.” I’ve slipped into conversations, made awkward eye contact, introduced myself too boldly, and been met with stony silence. Yes, this happens…to everyone.
Now will this be an experience you’ll still be ruminating on 5 days from now? Mostly likely no. Even my most embarrassing moments I typically forget right away.
It’s likely that no one else will even remember the party — especially if there’s booze involved. What they will remember is how you interacted with them and the way you spoke about the things you do.
I’ve walked into groups admitting that I don’t know anyone in the group, but they all look like a fun bunch of people to connect with. People respond to confidence and authenticity. So be your confident, wonderful self and say “hello.”
If you are met with instant awkwardness, silence, or the group fizzles out. Move on, you’ll be alright.
3. Remain Fluid
I am a huge advocate for remaining fluid during a networking event. There you have it, the secret is out because it’s in the name.
You are trying to build a network. Ta-da! So catch all of your data points and build your web. (This is a weird analogy, but let’s keep with the Spider-man theme.)
You want to walk away with new contacts who could turn into relationships and who could be potential clients/collaborators/partners/mentors, so don’t be afraid to boldly enter (and leave) conversations. Once you get into the swing of this, as with all things practice means perfect, it will become easier.
4. Leave If You Need To
I have always found this one funny. Societal norms tell us what’s polite and impolite, but they are often so vague that it’s difficult to know where the balance lies.
Many people struggle with being polite and being perceived as interested in an event, but want to catch the next tube home in order to have a real dinner.
It’s okay to leave if you need/want to leave. I have stayed at events for only 15 minutes or a full 3 hours — it really depends on the people, the vibe, my goals, and what I’m comfortable with.
Yes, there are some days when even extroverts like me need to recharge. I have been to events where I had to use every ounce of my energy to interact and I just didn’t want to be there. So I left.
I’m of the school of thought that it’s a thousand times better to handle yourself and take care of what you need than to begrudgingly show up somewhere and act like a grumpy muffing in the corner with cold dip and a sore look. I’m being a bit dramatic, of course, but I’ve definitely noticed this more times than you would think.
Please, take care of your needs and make your health and happiness a priority; life is way too short to stand around miserable at a holiday party. Maybe after some hot chocolate and Netflix, you’ll feel rested and ready to socialize again.
5. Follow up
I’m huge on connecting through email, LinkedIn, or in-person meetings. You put all this time in to get ready, to be present, to come in with networking goals, and to be boldly awkward, so reap those rewards!
I have found that many forget that this is the key reward for putting yourself out there and sharing your story. Don’t put all the time into your web and then just walk away!
Be bold outside the confines of the event and connect with your contacts. The longest I would go recommend going without a follow-up is 7 days. Past that, any potential contact will likely forget who you are unless your story and connection was unique to them. Remember, they’re meeting tons of folks too.
There you have it — my super-effective networking hacks that will help break you out of your shell and get you engaged in no time. These are just my top 5, but I’m sure there are a ton out there; let me know in the comments what hacks you use to get the most out of your networking opportunities!