How to Have A Successful Return to In-​Person Networking

BY Jessica Helinski
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In-​person networking is coming back after being put on pause during the pandemic. After more than two years, you may be anxious about jumping back into live events, especially if you’ve spent the past couple of years networking behind a screen.

After more than a year of making connections via Zoom, getting back to making connections face-​to-​face might seem exciting — but also intimidating,” writes William Arruda for Forbes. “Is working a room like riding a bike? Will you engage with people effortlessly, or at least the same way you did before? Or are you doomed to stand out as the professional who couldn't make the leap to the next normal?”

While returning to the in-​person networking scene may feel intimidating, there are things sellers can do to make their transition more comfortable and effective (and enjoyable!).

How to to return to in-​person networking

First, it’s important to focus on your own mindset and energy. In-​person networking has always been intimidating for some sellers, and now, after such a long gap in events, it may be even more so. Feeling unsure and anxious may be an issue for even the most seasoned networker. So, it makes sense to first take time to focus internally.

SalesFuel’s Tim Londergan shares some advice on beating networking anxiety. “Watch your self-​talk and lean toward a positive attitude about your upcoming networking opportunity,” he suggests. “Remember that you are not the center of attention and being judged for your every action and word. Above all, let go of unrealistic expectations requiring you to shine at every moment. Focus instead on being kind and warm. Your goal is to simply connect with someone. Resolve to make the most of the event and know that you CAN handle it.”

Adopting a positive mindset can soothe any internal challenges you’re experiencing, which will extend beyond to your actions when you return to in-​person networking.

In a Manage Smarter podcast, industry professional Jennifer Gitomer discusses the importance of manifesting positive energy when networking. “Your energy is being carried and transmitted into the room that you're going into, and people are going to feel it,” she explains. “Then they're going to pick up on it and then they're going to respond to it.”

Gitomer agrees that your networking success begins with your own energy. “If the body language and the energy that you're throwing off is bad, nobody's going to listen to anything that comes out of your mouth. It really has to start with this and then move on from there.”

For more tips on adjusting your mindset for successful networking, check out this past SalesFuel article.

Do your homework

Once you’ve focused internally, it’s time to do outside work to ensure a smooth return to in-​person networking. Arruda recommends doing some research prior to your event. By learning more about the location, as well as other attendees, you can ease some uncertainty. Also, you’ll feel more prepared if you have an idea of which sessions you’d like to attend and who you’d like to meet.

Keep in mind that the pandemic had an impact on business. The Great Reshuffle may have altered where colleagues or potential prospects work. Make sure you are up to date on any acquaintances you may encounter. You’ll likely see old connections in addition to new faces.

Refresh and refine your elevator speech

How long has it been since you’ve used your elevator speech? It may be time to dust it off for an inspection and update. The good news is that expectations for elevator speeches haven’t changed since the pandemic. They should still be short yet concise. As Arruda writes, “Your pitch should still be a brief overview of what you do, and it should highlight why others should care, but remember that personal branding emphasizes how you do what you do.” If you need a quick refresher on crafting an effective elevator speech, check out these tips.

And practice is vital before you return to in-​person networking. Rehearse your speech, especially if you’ve updated it. Doing so will allow for a more natural delivery, which will support an image of authenticity, credibility and confidence.

Show up with intention, but be flexible

Don’t plan to just wing it once you’re at your event. Just like it was pre-​pandemic, having an intention will ensure a successful return to in-​person networking. And when setting your intention, remember that you should be seeking to give value rather than take. “Don’t just walk into a networking meeting saying I’m going to get business today,” Gitomer advises. “Show up with an intention to give, to ask.” Consider how you can weave value into your small talk with other attendees while also getting some in return.

Also, be prepared for things to not go exactly as planned. Event organizers and other attendees are also getting used to in-​person events. Leave some room to be flexible with your plans. And be open to new opportunities or experiences that may unexpectedly come your way.

Finally, once the event is over, don’t forget an important post-​networking action: the follow-​up correspondence.

A return to in-​person networking may feel downright weird, but face-​to-​face interaction is invaluable. The more prep work you do, the more comfortable the transition will be.  As Arruda writes, “…there’s simply no perfect replacement for connecting face to face. Prepare ahead of time, and you’ll be ready to put your best face forward.”

Photo by Sora Shimazaki