Oh, networking. That dreaded word that evokes mental images of stick-on nametags, awkward conversations, and bad chardonnay. But what if networking didn’t have to happen at a “networking event,” but during the average events already happening in our daily lives?
Every day we encounter networking opportunities, from Uber Pools, to the person behind you in line at Sweetgreen, to, yes, the next wedding you’re attending. According to Emily Merrell, owner of the women’s networking group Six Degrees Society and bona fide networking expert, one of the best and most unexpected places for networking is at weddings. With a room full of like-minded individuals, an easy common denominator, and lots of friends of friends, it’s a no-brainer place to make that next personal or professional connection. Read on for her hacks on how to network at the next wedding you’re invited to!
Ok, so let’s take a step back. Why should we care about networking, in general?
Networking (like working out!) is a muscle that needs to be stretched, and often. It’s a mutual exchange of information between two people, and it’s something that needs to be cultivated over time. Human connection is important and humans naturally want to help one another.
A wedding isn’t the first place that we would think of when we picture networking. Set the scene for us. Why should we be networking at a wedding?
You never know when you will meet someone! Networking happens every day and everywhere and doesn’t have to be limited to a stereotypical “networking event.” At a wedding, it’s an easy place to make common connections, especially using the bride and groom as a way to start a conversation. Plus, you can lean on people you know to help make connections for you.
Please share your wedding networking hacks!
Right out of the gate, one of the easiest ways to introduce yourself is asking if the person knows the bride or the groom. Also, leveraging the bridal party and groom’s party as your insiders who can give you a lay of the land of people you should meet. Let them be your guiding light and point you in the right direction! If you’re trying to network within a particular industry or area, always have that flag flown and work it into your conversations. For example, “I’m moving to Argentina next year, have you ever been?” “Do you know anyone that lives there that you can connect me with?” Be clear on your ask, yet mindful not to take more than you give. You always want to give more than you take when you network, and offer help more than asking for help. Trust that the right moment will come to make your ask.
What are important things to remember while networking?
Be genuine, be authentic, and forge a connection not based on funding your company or getting something tangible out of it, but based on a commonality you can identify. Weddings are filled with tons of social cues, ie ways you can create that bond, so look out for them. Easy questions include asking if they grew up with the groom or went to college with them, and this tidbit is an easy way to then include how you know the couple yourself. Weddings are a surprisingly easy place to create more personalized connections, and relate on a more human level.
How do you make sure you’re still being a good wedding guest while networking?
Be mindful of everyone's time. Leave about 15 minutes per conversation and be the first person to walk away. You don’t want to be the person that stayed too long or followed someone to the bathroom.
Your date or friends (or both!) are your number one priorities. Make sure you properly introduce your new connection into your circle so everyone feels included.