DC EcoWomen Board’s Best Practices To Take To Your Next Happy Hour
Last year, DC EcoWomen gave you ten great networking tips to bring to our EcoWomen happy hour. Since then, members of the Board have been through countless networking happy hours and events, testing out the networking tricks for themselves. We’ve introduced ourselves to prominent ladies, tested out our elevator speeches, received endless business cards — and in the meantime, we’ve met a lot of great women and made lasting connections.
Now, one year later, we bring you the fruits of our efforts: The best networking tips, tried and true, from the DC EcoWomen Board, starting from the moment you walk in the door:
Someone has to do it! Be the first person to walk up to someone, say hello, and introduce yourself.
Confidence is key here — as EcoWomen, we already bring something to the party. More importantly, an air of confidence from the beginning can help you make the first move. Even if you are feeling a little shy, you can fake it — no one will know the difference!
In particular, don’t be afraid to walk up to a Board Member and say hello! We love getting to know our members.
Prepare Your Elevator Speech.
Once you take initiative and say hello, you might want to know what you’re going to say next! So what information do you want to get across to the women and men you meet at your networking event? Brainstorm ideas ahead of time, pick your three best talking points, and fit them into an elevator speech (a 20 to 30 second rundown of who you are and what you do). Make sure to practice your pitch so it rolls comfortably off your tongue, even when you meet your role model .
In addition to your elevator speech, it’s helpful to have a few generic conversation pieces and questions in your back pocket (figuratively — it might be awkward to pull out flash cards mid-sentence). This will prevent undue conversation lulls and awkward pauses.
Listen, And Be Personal.
Let’s be honest: everyone loves talking about themselves — what they do, how they got there, what they’re passionate about. The best way to learn about who you’re talking to is to ask questions. What are they passionate about? How did they get to where they are? What are their goals? Do you have similar passions or goals?
One Board member advocates bringing an air of curiosity – what interesting things might you learn? All information is currency!
But conversation is a two-way street — you shouldn’t just ask an endless supply of questions without offering some information about yourself. Just make sure to be genuine; personal stories can help open others up and inspire a greater connection.
The best time to take notes is immediately after the event, and the best vehicle for your notes is on the business cards of who you met. This way you can easily connect your conversation to the contact information you have at hand. Jot a note on the card if you’d like to follow up with its owner, or if they’re expecting your email. If nothing else, taking notes can help you remember someone’s name if you should run into them again — more on that later!
Following up is essential for keeping your new connections. It can be as simple as shooting someone a quick email if you’re not up for crafting a hand-written thank you message, and can range from a “nice to meet you!” to setting up a burgeoning relationship with your new mentor.
And finally, our top two tips (tied for first)…
Use Their Name.
Repeating someone’s name throughout the conversation can help them warm to you — people love to hear their own name. But more importantly, it will help you remember who they are so you can take notes or follow up later!
Make sure to glance at their name tags right away when you introduce yourself. One hint is to look at the name tag and then the face several times to try to visualize it — imagine writing it out in your head, thinking about each individual letter as you look at the person. You might even try coming up with some clever rhyme incorporating their job, or something unique they said, as well. It’s hard to train yourself to actively do this while paying attention to what is being said, but extremely helpful.
Then, when someone else joins the conversation, you can introduce the first person to the second and also include something interesting about them. Bonus points!
Practice, Practice, Practice!
The best piece of advice anyone can give: to practice, and practice again. There’s really no better way to improve and polish your networking skills. Eventually you will feel confident, comfortable introducing yourself to strangers, and most importantly, you’ll learn which tips work best for you.
DC EcoWomen provides you with many opportunities to do just that! On February 24, DC EcoWomen is teaming up with WIN’s Environmental Network for a conjoined happy hour. And don’t forget about our monthly EcoHours, where we always give time for networking at the beginning and the end of the event.