Ann-Sophie Ovile is the Founder and CEO of Mennen’m La Tours in Haiti, and she is one of 248 fellows participating in the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program, which brings entrepreneurs and civil society leaders to the United States for a five-week program. This U.S. Department of State-sponsored program empowers them to strengthen their capacity to launch and advance their entrepreneurial ideas and to effectively contribute to social and economic development in their communities and societies.
Let’s be honest, most of us do not like networking events. Networking is like your grandma’s party that you do not really want to attend but you know you should because, chances are, you will end up bonding again with your cousin Lucy and oh yea… the food will be amazing.
Networking events can be tricky. I found myself wondering many times what the thin line was between wasting my time and making the most out of it. Little did I know, networking is really all about strategy. The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiatives program has helped me study this strategy.
Here are 5 ways to make the most of networking events:
Observe first. Talk later
At networking events, it is very important to feel the energy of the atmosphere as soon as you enter the room. As a young entrepreneur, you know that time is valuable and you are hungry for opportunities. When you observe first, it gives you the time to truly see who you will have the most chance to connect with. Listen to what people discuss. Try to learn about their field or what they are interested in. This will not only allow you to strategically pick the people to whom you will approach first and save time, but it will also increase your chances of walking away with the right contacts.
Do not underestimate the power of connections
I have been guilty of not wanting to talk to someone because they were in the energy field while I was trying to sell tourism. But I soon realized that it is not always about direct contacts. Sometimes, that person who is not working in your field knows someone who knows someone who knows someone. That’s how the magic happens! Be open. Do not judge too soon. Your perfect match might just be one ‘boring lawyer’ away.
Bring more business cards than you need
Chances are, you will need many cards. Be generous. You never know. Someone might contact you on the same night!
People fall in love with your personality. Remember that the people you want to potentially make business with need to be people who click with your core values and the essence of who you really are. Don’t be so focused on trying to impress that you project a false image. Be yourself. Remember why you started your business. Remember your objectives. That’s what people will buy.
Stay close to the food
Most likely, they are serving delicious tapas. Don’t be so caught up in the conversations that you forget to catch your breath and eat delicious food. We all need a good break from time to time. Relax and enjoy the moment!