Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
Do you get overwhelmed by large networking events? If so, you’re not alone. Knowing who to approach and how to make a lasting impression with so many people can be tricky.
The good news is that you might find a happy solution with a smaller, more intimate networking event.
And you don’t even have to feel like you’re compromising on your career goals. Smaller networking events can actually be more beneficial for your career growth because they offer the opportunity for more one-on-one interactions.
Embracing Intimate Networking Events
With a smaller turnout, you’ll have a chance to really get to know the other attendees, and they’ll be more likely to remember you when it comes time to look over new business cards the next day.
In addition, smaller networking events tend to be more relaxed and informal, often making it easier to initiate a conversation. If you have one coming up, don’t back out. Instead, use the following tips to make the most of it.
1. Do Your Homework
With a smaller guest and speaker list, it’s easier to conduct research on who will be there ahead of time. Once you have some information on their backgrounds, you can use it as an icebreaker.
For example, if you know that one of the other attendees is from your hometown or attended the same university as you, you’ll be able to build a connection when you meet.
2. Be Authentic
Although some people might equate networking with schmoozing, you want to be as authentic as possible at a networking event. Of course, you should dress professionally, but wear clothes that reflect your true style.
And don’t try to exaggerate your current career status. Not only will they generally perceive that you’re being untruthful, but you might also miss out on some excellent opportunities.
For example, saying that you’re a senior-level manager when you’re a mid-level employee could prevent someone from mentioning a role that might have been an excellent fit because they think you’re already beyond that stage.
Be honest — you’re bound to make a better impression.
3. Ask Meaningful Questions
When you get an opportunity to speak with someone, make it count.
Avoid generic questions like “What do you do?” and ask something to help you better understand their work or interests.
For example, you might say, “I’m interested in learning more about your work in the [X] industry. Can you tell me a bit about what that’s like?” By asking follow-up questions, you’ll also be able to further your connection.
4. Practice Active Listening
When you’re engaged in a one-on-one conversation, there are several things you can do to demonstrate that you’re truly listening.
First, maintain eye contact with the person you’re speaking to. It’ll help show that you’re interested in what they have to say and not distracted by other things going on around you.
Second, refrain from looking at your phone or other devices. You’ll be sending the message that the person you’re talking to is the most important thing in the moment.
Finally, be sure to nod and provide other visual cues that indicate you’re following along with the conversation.
5. Fully Invest in Each Person
More significant networking events can feel like speed dating, where the goal is to contact as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time.
However, smaller, more intimate networking events allow you to slow down and get to know the people you meet. In these types of events, it’s essential to take your time and have meaningful conversations.
Ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. You’ll not only build rapport but also gain valuable insights into the other person’s work and interests.
As a result, you’ll be able to better assess whether there’s potential for a lasting professional connection.
6. Remember to Reciprocate
Making connections that support your career growth is a key focus, but it’s not the only reason to join a networking event.
It’s also a chance to help others make connections that might help them without any immediate payoff for you.
For example, you might meet someone who would be perfect for your old boss to meet. So, why not make a note to reach out and introduce them?
7. Follow Up After the Event
It’s easy to get excited and promise to stay in touch with someone when they’re right in front of you. But after days or even a week or two have passed, it’s easy to forget who you met.
That’s why once the event is over, it’s important to schedule a reminder to follow up with the people you met.
You can do this by sending a quick email or connecting with them on LinkedIn. In your message, mention something specific you discussed, like a shared interest or experience.
You’ll help the other person remember you and show that you were paying attention during your conversation.
Mastering Smaller Networking Events
The next time you’re scheduling career-building tasks, don’t shy away from smaller networking events — they could be just what you need to build career momentum.