Networking is pretty important to getting a job and building your career, but networking events can sometimes feel like awkward mixers where you don’t know where to stand or who to talk to. One way to make them a little better is to stand in the right spot to catch people just as they’re looking for someone to chat with (like you!).
As described in the video above, you can divide a networking event into three zones: start, social, and side. The start zone is where people are dropping off their coats, checking in, and getting nametags. You don’t want to hang around that area because people are still getting their bearings and aren’t ready to talk. The side zone is where the food is located and the side of the room near the bathroom. Avoid this area since you’re likely to catch people in an awkward moment (do you want to shake someone’s hand as they’re heading out of the bathroom or introduce yourself after they’ve just taken a bite?).
Aim for the social zone, usually around the bar, so that you can catch people once they’ve settled in and grabbed a drink to relax. Now people are in networking mode and ready to find someone to meet. As they walk away from the bar, there you are! Once you start chatting, you have a couple techniques to keep the conversation flowing and make a good impression: ask questions rather than just making small talk, focus on the other person’s passions to make things more interesting, or follow the FORD technique. And since networking events are about connecting with more than one person, have an exit line ready so you can gracefully move on after a few minutes.