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Networking Events for Dummies

This is a big week for me! Not only did I just celebrate my 20th birthday, but I am off to my first DeGroote networking event this week. I have my fair share of networking experience between this blog and my time at SJD Equestrian with other businesses, but I have never had to network for myself. Selling Emma Hamilton is more complicated than a blog, event or facility could ever be.  So I hit the books (and the LinkedIns, Pinterest, and any other possible site) to learn all I could about networking events, and most importantly, how to survive them without looking like an idiot.

The first step I made was to improve my social presence, mainly on LinkedIn. I figured if I was going to connect with anyone after the event, it would be via my email or my LinkedIn profile. Now, how awful would it be to have a great meeting and direct the person to a lousy LinkedIn page? You know the feeling when you hand out your childhood email to a teacher? I am pretty sure it would be worse.
Spotted: Updating Linked In and having froyo
So I pimped my profile! I made sure that I had everything up to date, my links to my employers and current clubs were correct and working and updated my photo and headline to better match the 'current Emma'. By verifying all these details, I feel much more confident saying "Add me on LinkedIn!". Huge thank you to LinkedIn algorithms for miraculously having this Forbes article come across my timeline when I needed it most.

Secondly, I started planning. Just like you would prepare for a presentation or an interview, you can prepare for networking events by doing research, asking questions and practicing answers.  I know that I get frazzled when put on the spot but there was no way to prepare for the people that I would be meeting or what questions they would be asking. Nevertheless, I needed some cheats to make it through the evening!

For example, if after introductions, the person asks me about my program, what do I say? I cannot drone on and on about being an Honours Integrated Business and Humanities student, as just saying the title leaves me out of breath. 

The "Emma Hamilton" elevator pitch would be mighty annoying and far too pushy. I know that I can ask lots of questions (and will still have to limit myself) but can also talk about my academics, personal and professional life without sounding dull or needy. The solution is to be authentic and open. I am in an interesting program that I can comfortably talk about the uniqueness of or why I selected it, and the ongoing adventures that it presents. I can discuss my passion for riding or even my experiences with this very blog. Having an arsenal of stories to respond helps to elimnate some of the awkwardness of networking.

I will try to take my own advice this Thursday at the DeGroot Student/Alumni Networking event. Wish me luck!

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