How to make HR networking events ‘work’ for you

Not everyone is a born networker. In fact, for many of us, the idea of entering a room full of unfamiliar people and trying to make meaningful conversation is extremely daunting.

Social media has helped us to side step this hurdle by providing an online platform for us to connect, but whilst social networking is fantastic, nothing beats the impact of meeting someone face to face. Successful interaction at events will help you to develop a network of long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships and with a bit of forward planning you can achieve it without your nerves getting in the way.

So if you would rather hide your HR light under the bushel of a LinkedIn profile than face a room full of your peers then it’s time to re-think your strategy and follow these simple steps to making networking events ‘work’ for you:

Be clear about your networking goals before you start.

You wouldn’t climb a mountain without a reason and you shouldn’t book yourself into an event without clarifying what you want to gain. It could be career opportunities; looking for your next HR role, professional development or meeting with your peers to share ideas and best practice. The point is, having a clear focus on the ‘why’ will help you shape the where and how.

Find events that match your aims and objectives.

  • There are several routes you could go down to find the right event. Google is always a good starting point but you may get better results from trying avenues already known to you such as the CIPD , trusted recruitment HR recruitment agencies or friends and colleagues in the HR sphere who can recommend events they attended in the past that have been useful and enjoyable.
  • Once you have earmarked a selection that look promising, make sure they fit the bill in relation to cost, timing and location. Some events are expensive, many are only London centric and you’ll often find that they can take up the best part of the working day. Our HR Heads networking events in Hampshire, Dorset, Surrey and Berkshire have been designed to fit into everyone’s diary, with HR Leaders able to fully participate in our interactive sessions and still be back to their desks before lunch time. They also provide the ideal platform for HR professionals to liaise with their peers, share ideas and develop skills and capabilities through interaction with industry experts. Based in locations across the South of the UK and completely complimentary, all you have to worry about is a little bit of pre-event prep to make sure you get the most out of your time with us.

So about that prep. Now that you’ve booked the event it’s time to do a little bit of groundwork to make sure you get the most out of your day.

    • Via social media channels, try and identify others who might be attending. Don’t pressure yourself to try and meet everyone. It’s far better to have three of four really good conversations where you can build some genuine rapport than to have fifteen quick chats that end up going nowhere.
  • Once you’ve chosen your key contacts take some time to find out more about them. This could be as easy as a LinkedIn search but there may still be occasions where you can’t find them on social media. If this does happen, you may be able to find their profile on the company website. If they still remain elusive, turn your attentions to the business they work for as this will provide you with plenty of information to open up a good conversation, particularly around features such as news stories, blogs or recent recruitment projects.

Prepare your elevator pitch.

  • By this we mean create a succinct but engaging description of who you are and what you do. For example, my elevator pitch is: “Hi, I’m David Barlow – I’m a Senior Consultant at HR Heads – we’re the leading recruitment agency for senior HR professionals across Hampshire, Dorset, Surrey & Berkshire.”
  • If you get this clear in your mind before you go, not only will it put you at ease but you’ll sound more natural to the person you’re talking to.

Prepare some opening questions for your key contacts.

  • Just like a job interview, our questions and responses flow better when we’ve prepared, and having some set questions to ask can really help get things started. The key is to keep those questions as open ended as possible to avoid yes and no answers and encourage the other person to talk. E.g. “So tell me about your current role?” or “what were you hoping to get out of today’s event?”
  • Think about the direction you want the conversation to take and structure your questions accordingly. For example, if you’re looking for you next HR job or career move, then find a way of bringing the conversation round to recruitment: “How do you see you current HR team evolving this year?” or “what recruitment do you have planned within HR at the moment?” or “what key skills and experience do you look for in members of your team?”
  • If you’re networking to share ideas about a particular topic, then the same rules apply. Think about some open ended questions that lead the conversation into your chosen area: “How is L & D having an impact within your organisation?” or “what tips can you share about some of the more challenging conversations you’ve had to have recently?” or “how do you find time to focus on the strategic elements of your role?”

Once you’ve found some questions that you’re comfortable with it’s time to fit the final pieces of the jigsaw together.

  • First of all, you need to decide what you’re going to wear. For both genders this could mean a smart suit, but not everyone is comfortable in full office attire. If this applies to you aim for smart/casual with an emphasis on the smart. Make sure you tame your hair, clean your shoes and iron anything that’s supposed to be ironed. Whilst no one minds if you’re not looking like the HR version of James Bond at a cocktail party, looking sloppy is a definite no-no.
  • Finally, you need to organise how and when you’re going to get there. Plan your route in advance and take slow traffic into consideration. Most events focus on the networking element at the start so make sure you arrive within the first 10 to fifteen minutes of things getting started. There is often a chance to meet people again at the end, and whilst this can be wonderful from a social perspective (you’ll all have the experience of the session in common), many people also dash off back to work and you may lose valuable networking opportunities.

So you’ve followed the steps and you’re ready to go – so lets find the perfect opportunity to test the waters. Part of the HR Heads value add offering are our Breakfast Forums; providing the chance to learn, debate and (most importantly for you!) network. Throughout the year, we run a number of interactive HR forums in Hampshire, Dorset, Berkshire and Surrey. We’re not just a recruitment agency! If you’re looking for your next HR job or are hoping to find a great HR recruitment agency to support and guide you in recruiting a great HR team then please come along to experience us in our natural habitat and talk to us about your needs!