“Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for.”
- Christine Comaford-Lynch -

Because AgencySparks exists to connect brands and marketing agencies, networking is a crucial part of the business. Anyone looking to grow in their career should spend ample time connecting with others. Connections from various aspects of one’s life often end up having career impact in the least expected ways! Here are three key lessons that will help anyone looking to become a better networker:

Lesson 1 - Stand out (but in the right way)


Any network opportunity is really a business relationship opportunity. The impression professionals leave on others create ripple effects. Every interaction, negative or positive, affects a personal brand. 

So how does one stand out at a networking event in the right way? 

One word: personality.

Unique business cards are a great way to show personality:

Unique business card - clever business cards for photographers
funny business card ideas

Adding personal flair to professional attire is another way to stand out:

Balance is key - wearing a color on the top, should be balanced with a more muted bottom. Same goes for fit -  skinny pants, should be paired with a looser top.

Balance is key - wearing a color on the top, should be balanced with a more muted bottom. Same goes for fit -  skinny pants, should be paired with a looser top.

To show personality through accessories, choose unique socks, belt, watch, pocket square. Don't try to do too much, the key is to be confident. 

To show personality through accessories, choose unique socks, belt, watch, pocket square. Don't try to do too much, the key is to be confident. 

But as we all know, personality extends beyond the surface.

With any professional opportunity, a little bit of preparation goes a long way. Having open-ended questions prepared as conversation starters can aid in building relationships with other professionals. Hosts can get the conversation started, as AgencySparks did at our most recent #MarketersBreakfast:

Conversation starter for networking events

Job seekers should take preparation a little further! Looking at the public attendee list in advance of the event can yield a great list of prospective employers to meet. 

Acting like the host is a great way to make those around you feel comfortable. This means starting and facilitating conversations in small groups and making introductions. People appreciate the confidence! For some, networking is second-nature, for others, navigating a networking event can quickly become overwhelming. Regardless, acting as the host will make the awkward networker feel relieved while giving others a chance to refresh.

networking event tips

Lesson 2 - Find the gaps


Finding spacial and conversational gaps at networking events is key.

Self-awareness (not self-doubt) works in your favor at networking events. Assertiveness is useful, but there needs to be a logical opening before launching into a conversation. Butting into an intense conversation between two people who clearly know each other well is not appropriate or appreciated. Finding spacial gaps means identifying a physical opening in a cluster of people talking casually and introducing oneself without halting the conversation. 

The right way:

Notice the open body language, smiling, and that there's no obvious “border” to the conversation.

Notice the open body language, smiling, and that there's no obvious “border” to the conversation.

The wrong way:

Two people, seemingly having an intense or serious conversation. Woman is displaying closed off body language.

Two people, seemingly having an intense or serious conversation. Woman is displaying closed off body language.

Finding conversational gaps goes hand-in-hand with acting like a host. People who seem to be looking for an exit out of the current conversation often look everywhere but at the person they’re talking to. This doesn’t mean they’re not interested in the person - it’s just a conversational “lull”. This kind of situation may provide an opening to help ease the conversational tension. Conversely, “being a good host” also means looping-in someone who is hovering around the periphery of a conversational group. .

There are two people waiting to join the conversation. Both of them are looking at the same person, so that person should wait for an appropriate time to make eye contact with the onlookers and loop them into the conversation.

There are two people waiting to join the conversation. Both of them are looking at the same person, so that person should wait for an appropriate time to make eye contact with the onlookers and loop them into the conversation.

Lesson 3 - It’s all about striking the balance between self-awareness and confidence.

 
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
- Dale Carnegie -

At networking events, one should be aware of clothing choices and maintaining professional friendliness. This means no club attire, no excessive drinking, and no inappropriate conversations. Additionally, confidence and assertiveness in approaching conversational and spacial gaps does not mean one should dominate every conversation.

The goal should be to talk only 25% of the time. The rest of the time should be spent listening and asking questions. 

85% of people say they build stronger, more meaningful business relationships during in-person business meetings and conferences. In other words, networking is and always will be an essential aspect of career development. 

Bonus tip - Practice with a goal in mind!

Networking events become easier with practice. Keeping the goal top of mind maximizes the chances of a successful event!

For those that want to network with amazing professionals and the brightest of young digital marketing students in the southeast can attend SPARKsouth on October 14th!

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