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Navigating networking: My golden rules for networking

By April 29, 2024 Stories
Hannah was a speaker at the #IWD24 event, talking all things organisational culture, starting a business and motherhood.⁠

I’ve spent the last 20 years talking to strangers in boring rooms.

Some call it networking. Others call it torture.

Either way, it’s an important part of your career – and whether you’re starting out, in the trenches or top of your game, I guarantee networking will form an important part of your professional trajectory.

If like me, you find yourself in a networking rut, I’ve penned my golden rules for networking along with the trips, tricks and traps I see people fall into.

In case you needed a little more of a nudge to get out there, here’s a timely reminder – ‘your network is your net worth’.


Your pre-network activity is just as important as what goes down in the room and good news for introverts, isn’t scary at all. Here’s how you can set your networking up for success.

1. Say yes to the networking event in the first place

It’s not a trick, it’s the truth. If you want to get better at networking, the first thing to do is say yes to attending an event. While you’re finding your groove, you might like to go with a buddy. Early in my career, I used to go with my work bestie, and we’d hit a couple of events each week, split the room, hand out our business cards to as many people as we could and then collate the data at the end of the night for maximum reach.

2. See if you can get your hands on a guest list in advance

Before a networking event, see if you can get your hands on a guest list, if not, stalk LinkedIn to see if you know any of the thought leaders in attendance. I sleuth by following the event organisers and follow official hashtags. Usually, you’ll find the speakers have posted a pre-promote – and likely their comments come from prospective attendees – hello instant guest list. Nutting out your ‘must meets’ ahead of time will mean you can be more purposeful on the ground.

3. Practice your elevation pitch, again, again and again

In preparation for any networking – formal or casual – I’d suggest practicing your elevator pitch. I’m no fortune teller, but I can guarantee someone is going to ask you “so what do you do?” and there’s nothing more embarrassing than mincing the words in your own introduction.

4. Have a few good questions in your back pocket

Active listening is your best offense when it comes to asking good questions, but I find having a few conversation starters to draw from a good idea. You want something more than “so, how’s the weather?” but less than “tell me your exact thoughts on the upcoming election” – I trust you’ll find the right balance.

5. Plan your logistics, arrive on time

Arriving fashionably late might have worked for house parties, but professional events thankfully run to time. It might sound obvious, but nothing contributes more to the stress of an event than rushing to get there or wearing an outfit you feel less than confident in. Having a plan will mean you’re not schlepping your heavy work laptop to an after-dark event, or wearing a mismatching jacket because you only had an old one that’s been on the back of your computer chair for months.



1. Be in the know

I’m not trying to be funny here, but there’s always a handful of people I meet at events who don’t know what the event is about or why they’re attending. Don’t be that person. If you know what you’re walking into, you’re going to get a lot more out of the experience and connections.

2. Meet IRL, and connect digitally

Once you’ve made that connection in the room, in my mind, you’re only 50 per cent done. You need a game plan to connect and cement that network. One of my favourite ways is turning my LinkedIn Profile into a QR code, doing a quick connection swap at the event with a quick ‘it was great to meet tonight’ (if it was of course) note to stay in touch.

3. Remember, no one actually likes small talk

If small talk is the reason you’re not going to events, just remember no one is there for it. While I’m not suggesting you open each conversation with the ins and outs of your latest health scare, no one said you can only discuss top line pleasantries at an event either. Not into talking? No worries. You can be an effective networker without actually doing much talking. Most people love talking about themselves, so as long as you’re active listening, you can still be a powerful networker just by tuning in.

4. Focus on the quality not quantity of networks you’re building

As a rule of thumb, at any event I go to, I’m only ever really looking for two to three new connections. I don’t need to “work a room” to find those connections. To be honest, I usually head straight to the bar or coffee cart by myself and strike up a conversation with someone doing the same thing. A rule I’ve plucked straight from my business-bestie Sarah’s book, is to join a group of three or more people. Groups of two are often colleagues wanting to have a private conversation, but groups of three are open for discussion. I often sidle up to them and get my chin wagging.

5. Have an escape strategy

What I can tell you for sure – there will be boring people at any event you’re going to. I like to have a few go-to lines should I encounter them. My good friend Bel has three variations she uses in rotation – 1) I’ve just seen someone I need to catch, 2) I need go to the bathroom, 3) I just need to top up my drink. The worry of course with the third is that they follow you; if so, revert to ‘excuse’ number one.


Thought you were off the networking hook the minute you walked out the door? Think again. Now it’s time to really shine to ensure professional relevance.

1. Action your follow ups pronto

When I say pronto, I mean within 24 hours of the connection while you’re top of mind. You never know if the person you’ve just met connects with hundreds of people each week and you’re soon to be lost in a sea-of-the-same-small-talk. Action your follow ups on a channel relevant to the event and the style of your conversation whether that be LinkedIn, a DM on social media or email.

2. Consider if there’s value you could bring your new connection

One of the ways to make my outreach email a little more interesting than “I loved connecting with you at xyz”, is to share a link or piece of information that I thought they’d like. In doing this, it adds more value and stands out in a sea of the same. I usually go for industry news or a favourite campaign I’ve seen recently.

3. If you have something to ask, don’t forget to add scaffolding

If you’re connecting just for the sake of connecting that’s great, but if you do want something from your new connection, refine what you’re after. You don’t want your email to read “Hi, we just met, can I have a job”. However, it might be appropriate to say, “we met last night and while I’m currently searching for work, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to attach my resume in case you or someone you know is hiring within your network.”


I’ve left my final and best piece of advice for last (your reward for reading to the bottom).

1. Remember that not all networks are built in networking rooms or events.

I come back to the fact I’ve met more people at the gym than I ever have at professional event. In fact, our biggest referrer of work to Media Mortar is a man I met at F45 – not a bad ROI from a gym membership.

I firmly believe you’re never in the wrong room to form a network – so if you’re not loving the idea of being at a networking event after hours, try saying hello and striking up a conversation at a location you do like. It could be the coffee shop, supermarket or pilates class … even the comments section of a blog like this!

By Hannah Statham

Hannah Statham is The Boss at Media Mortar. She’s a heavy weight wordsmith, punching with puns, analogies and metaphors that leave readers wanting more. When she’s not refreshing her Instagram feed, you’ll find Hannah searching for the best gnocchi in town.