My First Networking Event (Or I How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Talk To Strangers)

by Patrick on May 5, 2010


Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ben Sutherland

Last week I was invited by fellow blogger Clarendon Nights to come out to a Clarendon Alliance Happy Hour event geared towards the bloggers in the neighborhood. It was at 3 Restaurant, right by my house and on the way when I come home from the office- so I figured I would stop by.

Now we all know I’m sometimes socially awkward but I was still excited to attend. I’ve been to receptions and after-work events through my work over at DC Metblogs, but I’ve never been to a networking event. There I was in a room full of strangers with a drink in my hand and nobody to talk to. What was I supposed to do!?!?

I immediately recalled a post I read last year about one’s failure at networking and I got a bit scared- oh no what if I do the same thing?

I was in the middle of the room and I knew I had to do something. So I threw my social inhibitions to the wind and I walked up to a couple of people talking and got myself into the conversation. I think I used a question like, “where did you get that name-tag?” and all of a sudden I was talking to Ned Sharpf, President of Corporate Apartment Specialists. I had no idea what a corporate apartment was so he explained it to me and we talked a bit about his organization was all about. After I told him a bit about my blogging background he took me straight over to the reception table that I somehow missed and introduced me to his friend that serves on the Alliance. I got my name tag and I was then introduced to the Alliance Executive Director.

The rest of the night was a flurry of conversations and shaking of hands. I was off and networking.

Here are some lessons I learned while pressing the flesh and talking the talk:

Make An Appointment

A tip from Irina’s post, contact participants ahead of time, worked well at this event. I realized during the night that it would be a good idea to actually meet the blogger that invited me so when I hit a lull I started to search for Mr. Clarendon Nights and had a great chat with him.

Bring Goodies

One of the local businesses that caught my attention was Cliff who is the creative director over at Dimension Creative Promotions. One of the first things we did was hand me a card- not his business card but a holographic photo that is currently being used as the Empire State Building Executive Pass. Not only was it a great example of his work as a graphics printer, but it also gave him a way to tell his story in a way that kept me entertained. As I played around with the holograms he told me about his business and how he prints on anything BUT paper for his clients. The card itself was a cool take-away as I cleaned out my coat pockets the day after.

Of course if you are going to a Networking event- bring business cards! Heading up to Detroit many times for meetings got me into the habit of having business cards handy anytime I feel like I’m going to be meeting new contacts.

Ask Questions

If you don’t know what to say- ask a question. When I ran into Claire at the Arlington Arts Center, I asked lots of questions about it’s offerings. I knew where the building was but I honestly always wondered what went on in there and meeting her was my chance to find out. Asking questions is also an easy way to strike up a conversation if you are feeling shy. I noticed a woman with an old school SLR camera so I walked right up to her and asked her if she her camera was really film or digital. That woman turned about to be Stacey Viera and we had a great conversation about the next food cart I need to tackle: Rebel Heroes!


After meeting all these interesting locals I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget about them- so the night after I took all the business cards I collected and found them all on Twitter and LinkedIn while their memory of me was still fresh. It allowed us to continue the conversations we started, like the quest to find Rebel Heroes for Stacey and I.

Be Fearless

Another tip from Irina’s post but it deserves to be repeated: if you want to meet people you have to stop worrying about being shy and put on a smile and have some fun. I think part of the reason the event was just a great time was because everybody was in the mood to talk to each other and it really created a welcoming atmosphere. Not all events will be like that but you can help create one if you have the right attitude.

  • Mike

    Great tips! I’m actually going to an educational/networking SEO event in Boston tonight. Brushing up on these ideas has definitely brightened my day!
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Listing of Commission Junction’s Pay Per Call Offers =-.

    • Patrick

      Ya man- make sure you have cards and don’t feel like you all have to talk about just SEO. Brush up on the day’s news so if there’s a lull you can say, “hey did you hear about Sarah Palin’s…”

  • Sherry

    Good lessons. Surprisingly I did all that except for Bring goodies and Make an appointment (how can i miss the birthday boy haha) when I went for my friend’s 21st birthday 2 weeks ago hahaha. The only person I knew at the party was the birthday boy and instead of being quiet and shy I decided to be fearless and I ended up having a great time and made friends, and I added them all on fb the day after :D shall try the other tips if i go to some networking event next time.
    .-= Sherry´s last blog ..Pesto and Chicken =-.

    • Patrick

      I think bringing goodies is good if you are a skilled tradesman like Cliff- for the rest of us make sure you bring a business card.

  • Clarendon Nights

    Great write up of a fun evening Patrick! It was good to finally meet you too. Its funny; I felt the same way walking into the room as I hadn’t met anyone else there either. You have a great memory remembering all the names and details!

  • mary

    It’s great that you went to the event! I used to be painfully shy, but nowadays I go out to events by myself oftentimes and end up meeting a lot of great people. The more you go out and enjoy the company of others, the more you somehow forget about being afraid. =) Seems like she had some great tips!

    • Patrick

      Thanks Mary- hope you are learning like I am on how to meet new people!

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