When you attend a conference, a meeting, or an event organised by your professional body or trade association, some form of networking is usually expected. As well as being there to hear the latest information on a particular theme, such events present an excellent opportunity to get to know others in your profession.
Not everyone finds networking easy, in fact many of us find the prospect of talking to strangers daunting. And when you add in the need to ensure consistent messages about our personal brand – we might try to avoid it altogether!
The following short video from GoThinkBig.co.uk takes a light-hearted approach to how not to do it!
Try to think of networking as a conversation with an interesting person. Don’t worry about finding specific opportunities to tell them about your brand, as that might feel awkward and come across as fake. Having a few pre-prepared opening lines can help with your confidence.
Activity 4 Opening lines
Come up with three opening lines that you would feel comfortable using when approaching someone at a networking event. List them here:
You might try:
- ‘I don’t know anyone here; do you mind if I join you?’
- ‘What a great speaker, I was really inspired by what she had to say, especially when she spoke about x’
- ‘How long have you worked for this organisation?’
- ‘This is my first time, have you attended this event before?’ If they say yes, ask ‘Any advice for a first timer?’
- ‘I see you work for X, I’ve often wondered what it would be like working for them. What do you enjoy about it?’
- ‘I just noticed your phone/book/laptop − would you recommend it?’
- ‘What brings you to this event?’
Unexpected opportunities to share your brand
Opportunities to share your personal brand might arise several times a day in the workplace, e.g. in the canteen queue, at the bus stop, during the coffee break in a meeting − even in the staff toilets!
By behaving consistently each time you encounter someone, you’ll be building your personal brand even if you’re unaware of it.
Start by being friendly and helpful or by listening and being sympathetic when they moan about what happened to them that morning. If they are in your target audience, or can facilitate your access to your target audience, you can use this as the beginning of a relationship.
Consider following up with an email: ‘It was lovely chatting to you in the lunch queue today. I’d love to find out more about what you do and see if there’s any way my department can support you more efficiently. Could we meet for a coffee?’
These chance interactions might allow you to demonstrate your values or strengths, or simply to build rapport with someone. You can share your brand in more detail as you get to know each other better.
Another face-to-face experience that many people find difficult is the interview. This is clearly an opportunity to promote your personal brand to an interested audience and you’ll consider that in more detail in the next section.