Fight the urge to eat cheese cubes in a corner all evening.

Most of us are overwhelmed by discomfort and unfamiliarity when we step into a room full of people we don’t know, especially when it looks like everyone knows each other and is having a great time. Trust me, it’s not just you – most people at networking events feel awkward too. Remind yourself of this when you start getting nervous.

It’s time to charge forth into the crowd and do what you came to do: cultivate professional relationships that could lead to great conversations, partnerships, referrals, and maybe even sales down the road! But for your event, focus on starting those relationships. Here are some of the big dos and don’ts of networking events to help you feel as comfortable as possible.


  • Come to the event with a goal. A clear objective will motivate you to talk to more people – and talk to the right people. Are you trying to make contacts in a new industry? Learn from people who have the job you want to have some day? Figure out what you want to accomplish and push yourself to reach your goal.

  • Research the event topic and speakers ahead of time. This seems obvious, but a lot of people don’t do it well enough. Strangers often talk with each other about what’s happening at the event – it’s the only thing they have in common so far. Be knowledgeable about the event topic and speakers so you can answer their questions intelligently and participate in interesting conversations.

  • Talk to people in the buffet line. Head on over to the buffet line and strike up a conversation. Hmmm is that sirloin? Oh, this looks great! They certainly treat us well at XYZ Association. How long have you been a member? …Boom.

  • Listen well. Can’t think of anything to say? Listening is a key skill. If conversation is scarce in a group, ask people about themselves – they love that, and it takes the pressure off you. If you’re standing alone, join a group of people and listen until you feel comfortable chiming in.

  • Jot a few notes on the backs of each business card. This will be a huge help when you follow up with your new connections. You’ll stand out to them when you remember the nuances of the conversation.


  • Look at your phone. We have a tendency to take out our phones and scroll through old text messages when things get awkward. This will make you feel even more weird and alone than you already do. Head to the buffet line to strike up a conversation or join a group and listen until you feel comfortable speaking.

  • Promote your company. At this very early stage in a professional relationship, you should not promote your business. Networking is about developing relationships for future business and future referrals, not about closing deals. You’re there to get to know people and build foundations of relationships. The more genuine you sound, the more people will like you, want to get to know what you do, and want to maintain a mutually beneficial connection with you.

  • Spend more than 10 minutes talking with one person. Networking events set the stage for future business. Spend a few minutes getting to know each person you speak with, and then ask for their business card. The most important part of networking takes place after the event. Follow up with each person within 24 hours via a personal email.

You’ll never be able to take all the awkward out of networking events, but we hope these tips will help you navigate them with more ease and purpose. What tips do you have for winning at networking?

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