The best networking is the networking where you meet the actual human and not just a suit and a nametag.
If you, like me, grew up with pop-culture of the 90’s and 00’s you have probably heard the phrase “nothing good happens after 2 AM”. Well, if you’re a real networker and a global citizen, that is a lie. It is at the afterparties that people let down their guards and dare to show the human hiding in the suit.
Networking at events can’t be confined to a few inclosed hours between talks. Hours where people focus more on the name tags and how many hands they can shake before the program start again than the actual persons they meet. That’s why I always stick around after the program. Especially if someone whispers about gin & tonics. Count me in!
So let down your hair and join me at the afterparty.
Try it – at least for the good stories
I have been to a sauna where a Finnish woman, a South Korean guy, and I whipped each other with birch leaves because that’s the tradition. I have been in a hot tub in the snow and while sitting there in a borrowed bathing suit in size one fits none the Finnish minister of Finance walked by in his suit. Of course, the person next to me got up and waved him over.
I have hung out with some Finnish Youtube-stars and harassed some of the very top of the telecommunication giant Elisa. (disclaimer they were totally in on it and we had a blast being too much)
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I have been invited to an afterparty in Lisbon at a famous restaurant where this guy was launching a perfume and the drinks were the size of Olympian discus. I even got a bottle of his perfume!
In San Francisco I ended up partying at Blondie’s, dancing all night making friends that I still talk to today that works in the government and have a completely different network than me. Now we share each other’s contacts and help each other whenever we can.
Never be embarrassed about yourself
In Oslo, I made a friend for life embarrassing him by using up all the drink tickets. But I must have done some impression because we met again in Copenhagen. Actually, I made more friends that night that I still talk to today both professionally and casually just because we stuck around a little longer to share food, wine, and good company.
Totally randomly I met one of the persons from Oslo again in Bergen a year later. We never got each other’s contacts the first time, but we remembered each other instantly. That would not have happened if we had just been another nametag in the crowd.
I have been drinking whiskey with one of the richest guys in Israel, bought t-shirts at a midnight market with a journalist from the News Corporation, I lived in a house with 18 Finns, had gin & tonic with some of the world’s coolest and most influential entrepreneurs, got a chip implanted in my hand, and had furious discussions about ethical hacking and AI with some of the world’s experts.
Many of these people open up not only their networks to me but also their houses. And I will always do the same. What a privilege to have friends scattered all over the world!
How to network at afterparties
- It’s really not that difficult. Or of course it is if it is out of your comfort zone – but that’s just the more reason to do it! If you never step out of your comfort zone you’ll never grow as a person. And what is the worst thing that could happen? That you make an impression, a contact, a friend?
- I always think about this, what is the worst thing that could happen and have I ever survived anything like that before? We have all gone to school so the answer is yes, you have tried tons of things much more cringeworthy.
- Look at the way people gather in small groups and how they stand. Is the group closed or are people turning their bodies slightly outwards? If they are the group is ready to welcome a new member. Also look for the number of people and the energy in the groups. Always go for energy. You don’t want to be stuck with Mr. Mopey now that you finally made it to the afterparty!
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- Smile. Or at least do your best to hide your resting bitch face.
- Don’t be afraid to give a little of yourself. Show your personality. You have probably been polished during the whole show. Now it’s time to shine.
- Have some good stories in stock. It can be quite hard to come up with an interesting story with a hook, a point of no return, and a climax on the spot – especially if you’re tired or nervous. Think of a couple of good ones before you go. Stories that make you stand out in the way you want others to perceive you. Something to show what type of person you are instead of you directly telling it
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- Remember to listen. Other people have interesting stories, too, you know. You might learn something new. Let people know that you’re willing to help them and be concrete about it. How can you help? And when? Make a small note and follow up.
- Say yes to that crazy idea of an afterparty after the afterparty. Just do it. Don’t overthink everything.
- Remember to reach out to people the next days while the memory is still fresh and you can bond over the fun times you shared.