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An All-Encompassing Guide to Networking Events

Here’s everything you need to know about “putting yourself out there” and making the most of a networking event.

By James Quigley

Professional networking is one of the core Meetup topics, with more than 12 million members taking part in nearly 15,000 groups worldwide. Networking events are so popular because they appeal to so many different kinds of people: those early in their careers, highly experienced individuals with mentorship to offer, candidates who are between jobs, and more. 

However, with such a large number of networking events taking place, and such a wide variety of subtopics (i.e., the happy-hour-with-kindergarten-teachers to real-estate-investors-workshop continuum), it can be intimidating to jump in. Plus, the art of “putting yourself out there” may seem challenging to master, let alone to begin.  

With all of that in mind, take a moment to explore the potentially life-changing benefits of attending a networking event. This simple guide will help you discover the right kinds of professional groups that reflect your goals, and will give you all the tools you need to participate in a networking event with confidence.  

What networking events can do for you

Networking is, of course, about expanding your network. These events allow you to meet people in your industry, or people in an entirely new profession you’re considering for a mid-career shift. 

For some, a networking event represents a forum where you can hear about new business opportunities and establish working relationships with potential partners or clients. For others, the main purpose of attending a networking event is to develop camaraderie and a sense of mutual support with people who understand the ups and downs of your job.  

No matter your approach to networking, there are social benefits that apply to everyone. For example, when you attend a networking event, you’re certain to practice public speaking. As you meet more people, you’ll quickly get better at articulating yourself, being yourself, and knowing when a genuine connection has formed. Networking can often feel like exercise or healthy dieting—a good practice that takes a little effort and commitment, with major rewards in store.  

Not all networking events are the same  

There are plenty of ways to bump elbows with people in your sphere, from straightforward meet and greets to professional development workshops and fun outside-the-box events. 

For example, the Brooklyn Creative And Entrepreneur Network hosts a “Speed Networking & Business MatchMaking” night. This Meetup group of more than 7,000 members takes the concept of speed dating and applies the “dating” part to potential career opportunities.  

Some communities help you connect through mutual learning. Ironhack Chicago: Tech Careers, Learning and Networking is a Meetup group that teaches the basics of programming and web development to nearly 850 members looking to boost their careers.  

Others opt for a more casual approach, and let the mingling take its natural course. First Friday Charleston-Professional Networking Happy Hour, a Meetup group of more than 4,400 members, draws huge crowds to their monthly event which features a different local brewery each time. Network After Work – Houston Networking Events, a Meetup group of more than 15,000 members, regularly gathers at the House of Blues for drinks, music, and conversation between seasoned pro networkers and people just getting started. 

How to make the most of a networking event 

The first step should happen before you arrive at the event. You want to go in with a goal, but a lowkey and moderate one. If your goal is to get hired by the end of the night, you may end up frustrated and disappointed. However, if your goal is to make at least one connection with someone in your industry, the road to success will be much easier to follow.  

Just showing up to a networking event—taking the time to be there physically or virtually in that dedicated space—takes some courage, and you should be proud of yourself for that. Use this budding confidence to help you talk to people you don’t know. If you’re rusty with meeting new people, take a minute beforehand to learn five simple steps that will improve your introductions.  

Whenever you do make an introduction, be sure to remain present, and really listen to your conversation partner. In other words, don’t just wait for your turn to speak. Engage with what the other person has to say by asking follow-up questions. This demonstrates a genuine interest, expands the discussion into new territory, and helps establish a foundation for further connection in the future. If you happen to exchange contact information with someone you meet at a networking event, be sure to reach out within the next week, even if it’s just to thank them for a nice chat.  

How to start networking today 

Join some professional networking groups on Meetup, and you’ll make a few points of contact even before you attend an event. You can also create your own Meetup networking group and invite friends and colleagues to join you in supporting each other’s career journeys.

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