Conquer Networking Jitters: How To Shine At Your First Event

I had practiced my elevator pitch until it sounded as close to effortless as it was going to get and I carried with me a substantial supply of business cards. I knew I had everything I needed, yet I still felt largely unprepared for my first ever professional networking event.

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I walked into the brewery tasting room where the event was being held, and as the event coordinators were still setting up shop, found my way to the outdoor patio. I sat and glanced around, trying to get a feel of the crowd I would soon be interacting with.

You know what I saw, Career Girls? People with their elevator pitches printed out in front of them, furiously and silently practicing in the minutes counting down to the start of the event! With that, all of the nerves were gone.

Every single person on that patio was just like me; inexperienced, braving the discomfort in order to put their best face out to the world, and hoping to network the heck out of this event.

The key to nailing a networking event isn’t to have the most stellar elevator pitch, the best business cards or to have a ton of experience doing it. The key is to relax, embrace the opportunity to meet a new group of professionals with whom you share a common interest and to have fun with it. 

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As soon as you relax you will be able to start shining. Reach your hand out to the person next to you, smile and confidently introduce yourself. Interacting at a networking event is not an interview and it’s not a competition to see who can be the most awesome networker, so don’t treat it as such.

Networking is a conversation. You’ve been talking to people your entire life, remember? You already have all of the skills and experience you need to rock it!

In order to prepare for your first event all you’ll need is to come up with your 30 second elevator speech, a handful of business cards, and to have confidence in knowing that you will do great.

Perfect Your Pitch.

Developing your 30 second elevator pitch isn’t as tough as it seems. Need some help getting started. Read this? Follow this simple formula:

  • An introduction with your name and job title.
  • A brief synopsis of who your company is, what your company does, or about the types of products you sell.
  • Highlight the interesting and pertinent aspects of your role within the company.
  • Finish with a call to action. This can be a question transitioning the conversation over to them such as “I would love to hear more about you. What do you enjoy most about your current role?” or “Enough about me! What part of your work are you most passionate about?”

No business cards for the event? You can fix it!

If you recently ran out, your cards are on order, or your company is lagging on supplying you with this essential tool, do not fret. You can make it happen.

If you have a couple of days’ grace period , order online and have them shipped overnight to your office. If you’re in a pinch, print centers like Staples and FedEx Print Centers offer same day printing within a few hours. That leaves plenty of time for you to submit your order and swing by the one closest to your office before you head over to the event!

Remember, everyone Else Is Nervous Too!

Networking is easy. The goal is to meet new people and to expand your network. You are already on common ground since you’re there to discuss business. While engaging with someone, ask questions about them and their company; how they came into their current role, what they wish they could do differently given the chance to make a change, and what they are passionate about. Read this great piece on Five Ways to Get Better Results from Networking to get more perspective.

Once you relax and get into your groove you’ll see that networking can be both exhilarating and fulfilling! It’s guaranteed that you will leave your first event with a purse full of business cards and new contacts, some new friends in the business, and the happiness that you were able to conquer your jitters and shine!

Career Girl Bonus Tip: Follow-up with your top 3 favorite people you met at the event and make it a goal to ask them to coffee or happy hour the following week. Keep that networking ball rolling.


Do you have any tips on how to network like a pro? Tweet them to me @sncueto or @mscareergirl!

Sarah Cueto

Sarah earned her B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior from UC Davis. She is a resident of sunny San Diego, CA, and is currently working in a Sales & Marketing capacity within the biotech industry. She is focused on her blossoming career, developing her identity as a young professional, and is an avid blogger. Sarah writes regularly about her experiences as a twenty-something woman trying to figure it all out, and in the name of twenty-somethings everywhere, on her blog Twenty-Everything.