If the thought of an event where you have to casually talk to people you don’t know very well makes you nervous, you’re not alone.
But in the library world, you need to face your fear to network in your community and with colleagues at conferences and other events. Here are some tips to make the most of a networking event, especially if these skills don’t come naturally for you.
Set a goal. Ahead of time, decide for yourself how many new people you want to meet before you leave. Depending on the length of the event, the number of people in attendance, and your comfort level, choose a number. This will give you a specific, measurable metric to focus on rather than an endless sea of unknown faces.
Strategically employ a buddy. If you know someone else attending who knows more people at the event, ask them ahead of time to introduce you to a person or a group of people who have something in common with you. You want to leverage the people you already know without using them as a crutch at the event. If you both don’t know anyone, try to divide and conquer instead of just talking to each other. If you each talk to someone new, then introduce them to each other, you’ve both increased your connections.
Plan conversational topics. Sometimes it can be hard to come up with things to say in the heat of the moment. Before you get there, brainstorm a few topics and questions related to the event. If you’re going to a library conference, you could ask about sessions they’ve attended, books they’ve read recently, or exhibitors they visited. At a community event, ask about new restaurants they’ve tried in the area, what new initiatives their organization is working on, or even what they think of the weather lately! Make sure you know your own answers to the topics and consider follow-up lines of discussion.
Those are just a few tips that work for me. What other strategies do you employ when attending events where you have to mingle and network?