Last night I had my very first networking experience, and it was absolutely amazing. I attended the Y.E.S! Vancouver “Women in Wine” event which was held at the Legacy Liquor Store in the Olympic Village. The event was beautiful, and Y.E.S! did an excellent job of creating a fun and relaxed atmosphere which made mingling natural and enjoyable.
Leading up to the event I couldn’t help but feel nervous because networking is new to me, but when I walked through the doors of the Legacy Liquor Store, I immediately felt relaxed and in my element. I was surrounded by inspirational women with similar interests as me, appetizers, and wine! We tasted wines from local wineries including JoieFarm and Sperling Vineyards, and listened to inspirational success stories from two local female sommeliers, Lesley Anne Saito and Heidi Noble. I quickly learned that I had nothing to be nervous about because everyone at the event was there for the same reason I was. Everyone was welcoming, open to conversation, and easy going. They all had interesting stories to share, and they were equally as excited to hear mine. It was an experience that I would recommend to anyone, whether to meet future colleagues, mentors, or new friends.
If you are new to networking, or maybe you have been to events but your nerves tend to get in the way, here are a few tips I was given that have helped me:
- Walking into a room full of strangers requires you to step out of your comfort zone, which feels scary. Realize that everyone at the event is there for the same reason you are and be confident!
- Don’t be afraid to start a conversation. Mention how great the cheese is or talk about the raffle prizes.
- People like talking about themselves, so ask them questions and be a good listener
- Bring business cards and a pen! The point of networking is to make connections and to maintain them. Take a pen to write something memorable about the conversation you had with them at the event on the back of their business card so you don’t forget who they were.
- Have pockets to hold business cards, and keep the cards you have received separate from your own. I knew this going to the event, but wore a pocket free suit and regretted it. It looks messy digging out your cards from the bottom of your purse.
- Don’t hand out business cards for the sake of handing out business cards! Only offer your card if you feel you had a connection with the person and if there’s a reason why you should remain connected.
- Go home and add the people you made connections with on LinkedIn. Always write a brief message to remind them of who you are and where you met, and never use LinkedIn’s default message!
- Go to more networking events. The more you go to, the more natural they will feel, and the more familiar faces you will see.
Lastly, if you are female, I strongly recommend checking out a female networking organization like Y.E.S! Vancouver.