Everybody loves to talk. At least, they do when it comes to talking to friends, family or small intimate groups of people they know. But when it comes to public speaking, the number one fear in America, people tend to shy away.
Not surprisingly, networking events have the same reaction. Networking, or meeting new groups to exchange ideas or information, falls just short of public speaking, coming in at the second most feared event. So, what do you do when your job requires you to not only attend networking events, but to attend multiple?
Teri Thompson, creator of Etiquette in Action and main speaker at Wittenberg’s Networking and Etiquette program, had the answers. She hosted alongside Wittenberg’s career services program, Thompson set up a program that helps students of all majors learn how to make their way through a typical networking experience. The main point of the Networking and Etiquette workshop was to learn to speak and network successfully in a casual environment, and, ultimately, learn how to leave a good and lasting impression on someone’s mind.
As Thompson and several alumni mentioned throughout the workshop, you never know when you will run into a future employer, so it is essential to know how to make a good impression in every situation. Thompson brought in eight Wittenberg alumni whose professions ranged from former theater teacher to lawyer, so the students who attended would have plenty of options when choosing who to talk to and learn networking tips from alumni who worked in different fields.
Thompson started off the event by introducing herself and the alumni, then wasted no time and began giving helpful tips and general knowledge of how to engage in different networking protocol. She then set the students free to engage and meet Wittenberg alumni and practice their new knowledge. While the students milled around to find conversations to engage in, Thompson walked through the tables and gave out helpful hints about how to start or guide a conversation.
Throughout the hour and a half, Thompson gave several tips and tricks to help students navigate their way through tricky networking situations. These tips included how to eat sloppy foods, what hand to hold a drink in, how to exit and enter a conversation gracefully and the proper way to give and receive a business card.
As the environment became more relaxed and students began feeling more confident in their abilities, Thompson became more elated and excited about the experience.
“There’s a need for it,” stated Thompson, looking happily around at the students. “Networking is so important in moving on in your career program. Students really have a need for it in their careers.”
The more students talked and practiced, the more comfortable and confident they became. Students mingled with different alumni each time and were able to practice their newly learned skills with the alumni and each other. By the end of the night, students were shaking hands with alumni, business cards were exchanged and meetings were wrapping up. Students left feeling confident in their ability to impress future employers with their new knowledge and skill set.
If you missed this year’s networking event, don’t worry. Thompson will be back next year with new tips and tricks, ready for you to come master the art of networking.