Tips for Networking Events by Brittany Martin Graunke

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At YNPN Chicago, we are constantly working to bring the non-profit community together. We also literally bring the non-profit community physically together several times a month through our programming and networking events.

We all know how it can feel to go to an event with the goal of meeting new people and to end up feeling like the girl who wasn’t asked to dance at the prom. I’m one of the odd people who love entering a room without knowing people. As an adult, who grew up as the “new girl” at 9 schools, meeting new people is actually one of my favorite things to do. And I’m happy to share the following four easy tips:

Attend Alone

While it may be tempting to invite a friend or coworker, if you really want to meet new people at networking events, I’d recommend coming alone. Whenever I go with a friend to a networking event, I find myself talking to my friend and not mingling. If you go with a friend you’ll be comfortable just talking to them. If you go solo, you’ll have to go find someone to talk to and your only option will be to make new friends and contacts!

Interrupt Conversations

Yes, it’s rude to interrupt. But, it’s not rude if you kindly ask to join a conversation. If I see a small group (2-3 people) who look like they are having a great conversation, I walk over and ask, “do you guys mind if I join your conversation?” 999 times out of 1,000 they’ll welcome you in and you can get caught up to speed on what they are chatting about and who they are. It’s a perfect low risk way to make a few new contacts or friends at an event.

Know What’s Going On

If you’re making new friends, you want to seem smart, right? Of course you do! It’s always helpful to freshen up on recent news that impacts your sector or the country at large. It gives you the opportunity to add to the conversation and also to learn more about your new friends and contacts perspectives on current issues.

Ask Questions

It’s the truth – everyone’s favorite thing to talk about is usually himself or herself. A way to get off on the right foot with someone new is to ask questions. Learn about their job, their long-term career aspirations, why they work in the non-profit sector, etc. Ask them what brings them to the event, how long they have lived in Chicago, or where they are from. Have a few questions in your back pocket and the conversation will never be slow!

If you follow these tips, you’ll find networking events become even more fun and you’ll meet more new people than before. Have fun and happy networking!

Brittany Martin Graunke is an Online Media Co-Chair for the YNPN Chicago Executive Board and founder of Zealous Good, an in-kind donations marketplace in Chicago. You can find Brittany on Twitter at @ZealousBrittany or you can find Zealous Good onFacebook and Twitter at @ZealousGood.