Published: May 20 2022
After two long years of Zoom calls, webinars and virtual happy hours, we’re starting to see the return of in-person networking events, conferences, and gatherings. If you’re feeling a little unprepared to make the shift, you’re not alone!
Whether you loved going to events pre-pandemic or were secretly a bit relieved to have an excuse to stay home, chances are it feels a little weird to step into an event with a group of people and mingle again. But, as tempting as it may be to forgo networking events, it is crucial for business owners, leaders, and entrepreneurs to make an appearance in the community whenever possible.
Whether you expect to know people at the event or not, you will inevitably have to introduce yourself to someone at least once.
Sounds easy enough…until you have to do it and either forget your job title, how to explain what you do, or even your name!
It’s always a good idea to have an introduction prepared. It doesn’t have to be complicated—start with an easy formula:
“Hi, I’m [your name], I work for [your company/business] as [your job title]. Nice to meet you!”
“Hi, I’m [your name] and I’m the owner of [your business]. We [brief explanation of what you sell or provide].”
We know—you hate small talk. Who doesn’t? While talking about the weather is a nice way to break the ice, it’s unlikely to help you make lasting connections, build your business, or grow a productive network.
The best way to keep meaningful conversations going is to ask questions. Even better if you can ask strategic questions that will help you find potential partners, team members, customers, or clients without coming off as too forward or “sales-y.”
Here’s some examples to get you started:
As someone is answering your questions, make note of anything you have in common, or anything that comes up that might relate to your business. For example, if you own a clothing store and someone talks about how they’ve always had an interest in fashion, maybe they would be interested in either stopping by your store or coming in to interview for a sales position.
The point of networking is to—you guessed it—build a network, and you don’t do this by only having one-off conversations at events. If you’ve met someone you think would be a good fit for your network (as a customer/client, collaborator, mentor etc.), it’s important to take steps to ensure you have the opportunity to connect with them again.
Here are some ways to close out an interaction that will leave the door open for future connections:
If you’re ready to get out there and make connections, there is no shortage of events and opportunities in the Okanagan. Below are a few of our favourite organizations that host virtual and in-person networking events for people in a variety of industries.
Greater Westside Board of Trade
Downtown Kelowna After 5
Women’s Enterprise Centre
Kelowna Women in Business
Okanagan Young Professionals Collective
Lake Country Chamber of Commerce
Kelowna Chamber of Commerce
For some more general networking tips, check out our previous blog where our CEO Nikki Csek offers tips to calm your nerves, read the room, and pick the right conversation topics to connect with those around you.