What exactly is networking, and how important is it to be involved in an environment where interacting with your peers is encouraged? Networking goes beyond your standard specialized event. Networking is any situation where there is potential to establish and build a relationship, no matter what line of work or industry that person may be in. Although occasionally intimidating or tedious, relationships are the foundation of any successful business, so it is imperative to create connections whenever possible. Fortunately, there are ways to embrace networking as an exciting occasion rather than a necessary evil.

The first aspect of networking is finding a platform to engage in conversations where you are enthusiastic. There’s nothing worse than standing in the background waiting for your opportunity to speak to someone at an event because you don’t feel at ease. When looking for a networking opportunity, start by doing research of what is going on around you that includes your personal interests. If you enjoy music and arts, but don’t necessarily work in that industry, try looking for a music panel or a local art showing. LinkedIn is a fantastic resource to kick-start your research. Search for companies in your desired field and see what they’re up to! Chances are, you’ll not only find an event to attend, but you’ll have the opportunity to connect with people before going. When you actively practice starting relationships with people you don’t know, you’ll develop the ability to bring that skill into your day-to- day life.

Once you’ve found an opportunity to network, remind yourself of your goals. What is it that you’d like to gain from a potential meeting? Are you prepared if someone inquiries about your career or the projects you’ve worked on? What are your long-term goals? Thinking through these questions won’t throw you off guard if asked. Also, make sure you are open and curious as well. Feel free to express interest in the event, the topics, and the people. Keep in mind that the easiest way to be interesting is to be interested. And finally, once you’ve put in all of that work to become an expert networker, make sure you follow up! If anyone is interested in meeting us, we’ll be at ProMat Show from April 3-6, 2017 in Chicago, IL. Let us know if you will be there!